Sept. 27, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Pennsylvania and other states are toying with applying for proposed federal waivers related to the U.S. Department of Education’s “No Child Left Behind” mandate, but Lee Williams, Slippery Rock University professor of elementary education and early childhood development, says those actions will make little difference in SRU’s teacher education program.
“We will continue to teach our students to help every child they teach. We teach students to teach all children. We prepare our education majors so that when they go into any school every child they encounter in the classroom will learn. We want our graduates to have a positive impact on the education of each child they teach. That is, and remains, our goal,” she said.
Williams, who is also a member of the Pennsylvania Board of Education, said she believes a number of schools in the commonwealth will be eager to apply for and accept waivers being offered by President Obama through U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The possibility of waivers was announced last week to allow states a reprieve from the federal sanctions required by the No Child Left Behind education law approved during President George Bush’s term.
The law does not deal with education at the college or university level, Williams said, “So it is not as big a deal in higher education, since it does not affect us as we teach our students. But it does change how schools measure student learning. Before the waivers issue was raised, schools had to have their achievement levels at 100 percent proficient with few exceptions by 2014. The No Child Left Behind rules were implemented on a ‘J-Curve’ meaning that after initial implementation, their learning performance results were more demanding in subsequent years. Schools are now looking at not being able to make the level of improvement necessary to make all children proficient in the next two years – and that is a problem.”
She said Pennsylvania’s Department of Education is expected to post its school report for 2010-11 online this week. Last year’s showed at least 13 schools in need of “corrective action.”
The No Child Left Behind issue is coming to a head as Congress has not been able to reach agreement in reauthorizing the 10-year-old law. Lawmakers are hearing from school leaders and teacher unions seeking more state control over education issues.
The current law requires states to label schools as “failing” if they do not meet the federally set achievement goals.
“I would expect that no principal in a Pennsylvania school would want his school labeled ‘failing,’ so I expect some will want the state to seek the proposed waivers,” Williams said. “However Ron Tomalis, Pennsylvania secretary of education, reported to the board at its Sept. 20 meeting that he is seriously looking at the waiver program, in part, because there is no assurance that if there is a change in administration, the waivers would be continued, or regarded as legal,” Williams said. She said Tomalis and his legal staff are reviewing their options before a final decision is announced.”
As a member of the Bush administration, Tomalis was instrumental in enforcing the No Child Left Behind law after its adoption.
Other states have said they support the waiver concept and will quickly apply.
Waivers could be granted that allow schools to delay meeting federal test-scores and other requirements. Obama has said that in return for the waivers, schools receiving the waivers would be required to present plans that show they are working to provide even more stringent evidence of boosting progress in educating their students.
Schools or districts granted waivers would also be relieved of having to set aside a pre-set amount of federal money to spend on low-performing schools.
Obama has called his plan more flexible in working with districts facing serious problems meeting the federal standards while still encouraging the schools to improve education delivery.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.