State board approves Ybarra request for federal flexibility

The State Board of Education Thursday unanimously approved new state Superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s request for a one-year waiver for flexibility from federal education laws.

Ybarra first week
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra

Idaho’s existing waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act / No Child Left Behind law is set to expire this summer, and Ybarra and her staff have been preparing a new waiver.

If approved, the new waiver would, in part:

  • Allow Idaho to discontinue use of the statewide instructional management system known as Schoolnet. Earlier this year, lawmakers received a scathing report on Schoolnet, and funding for the statewide system is being phased out. In its place, school district leaders will be able to select their own systems.
  • Give state officials the opportunity to suspend the five-star school ratings system developed under previous Superintendent Tom Luna. Ybarra said she would work this year on developing a replacement, saying the current accountability system frustrates and confuses many people.
  • Call for Idaho officials to develop guidelines for educators’ evaluation and support systems. The 2015 Legislature passed a new career ladder teacher salary law addressing teacher evaluations and pay.

Ybarra met with President Obama and federal education officials last month, and said they are interested in working with state leaders to grant local flexibility from under No Child Left Behind.

“They are looking at being way more flexible with accountability models for states,” Ybara told the State Board. “They want school districts to come up with their own accountability model, and understand a statewide accountability model is just not working for some states.”

Ybarra originally discussed a three-year waiver, but said Thursday the she feels more comfortable with a one-year waiver.

The board approved the request with very little discussion or debate.

Ybarra has previously told lawmakers that the state will not seek to get out of the Common Core-aligned Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced assessment through the waiver. For the remainder of this school year, the state and its schools are bound to adhere to the existing waiver, which requires 95 percent of students in grades three through eight and 10 complete the ISAT.

The new waiver was originally due in late March, but Idaho was granted an extension. The document is now due to the U.S. Department of Education by April 30.

(Highlights of the waiver are available via the State Board of Education’s website, beginning on TAB 2, Page 3.)

The State Board met Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Idaho.

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