Feds list problems with Idaho NCLB waiver

The federal government has given the State Department of Education until early February to address several problems with the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.

The problems, outlined in a Jan. 6 memo, include:

  • Shortcomings in reporting the number of high school students who take college-level courses and ultimately go to college.
  • A failure to recognize the state’s highest-performing schools — known in the federal government’s parlance as reward schools.
  • A failure to demonstrate that the state’s low-performing priority schools are adopting “turnaround principles” designed to improve academic performance.
  • A generalized approach to improving performance at the state’s 42 low-performing focus schools. The federal government wants to see proof that these schools are “implementing interventions that target the specific school’s need and/or student group performance.”
  • Omissions in the state’s five-star school ratings, released Aug. 1. Specifically, the feds want data on school National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, and “high-quality teacher data” from the schools.

The Idaho report is part of a bigger, six-state effort to monitor states with NCLB waivers.

“Federal officials found success, but also raised red flags, in each of the states: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, and New York,” said Education Week reporter Michele McNeil, who wrote about the reports this week. “But by far the biggest problems, based on the reports, are found in Mississippi and Idaho, which seem to be struggling most with how to help the 15 percent of their schools with the lowest test scores and the largest achievement gaps.”

Spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told Education Week that the State Department of Education is closely examining the report.

Idaho is one of 42 states that have been granted some form of NCLB waiver. Idaho received its waiver in September 2012. But that waiver hinges on meeting several guidelines, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlined in an Oct. 17, 2012 letter to state superintendent Tom Luna. Those requirements touch on some of the same issues raised in the federal government’s Jan. 6 report: college- and career-ready academics and a method to recognize, support and hold accountable the state’s Title I schools and districts.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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