Sacramento City Unified won’t renew NCLB waiver

947ff2df8b9acd4f6b4187e5b1d44046Via EdSource | By John Fensterwald

Faced with intense opposition from teachers, Sacramento City Unified announced Wednesday it would not join other California districts in reapplying for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Its defection leaves seven of eight districts seeking to extend a waiver from the federal accountability law through the California Office to Reform Education, a nonprofit that they formed. The waiver they got last year was the first for school districts, as opposed to a state department of education.

The CORE districts applied because California was one of only four states that either didn’t seek a waiver or had its request rejected.

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Teachers Unions Chagrin: Waiver Process Left Them Out

Sad-TeacherThe two biggest statewide teachers unions — California Teachers Association (CTA) and California Federation of Teachers (CFT) — have problems with the waivers granted to eight school districts from the federal program, No Child Left Behind. The objections, however, are more about how they came about than what they mean.

“My guess is that there are probably some elements in there that we would embrace, but I think the process itself is flawed,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “Somehow, the women and men who are actually in the classrooms doing the day-to-day teaching were left out of the process of improving our schools. It’s just not going to work.”

The waiver request was put together by superintendents from eight school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, who received guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and other third parties. Elected school boards were not asked to sign off.

Pechthalt added: “It’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all reform.”

The CTA expressed similar objections to the waiver agreement, blaming Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“By approving this waiver, Secretary Duncan once again demonstrates how his rhetoric that educators be actively involved in education change is just that – rhetoric,” CTA President Dean Vogel said in a statement. “Not one of the local teachers’ associations in the eight school districts was included in the discussion or signed the waiver application.”

UTLA President Warren Fletcher declined to comment.

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No Child Left Behind Waiver for CA Districts Includes ‘Unique’ Oversight Panel*

imagesIn granting eight CA school districts a No Child Left Behind waiver, the federal government is creating for the first time an oversight body to measure schools’ progress.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the panel “unique” among the waivers granted to 39 states and the District of Columbia.

“We went back and forth about how to have oversight and hold these districts accountable,” said Duncan. “The panel idea was a significant improvement from the system they first proposed.”

The 14-member oversight body will provide an “unbiased external compliance review” of each district’s progress after a series of self- and peer-evaluations.

The group includes a Governor’s appointee and a representative for administrators, school boards, superintendents, unions, parents, the civil rights community, English learners and disabled students.

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‘No Child’ Waiver OKd for LA Unified, 7 Other CA School Districts*

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

The U.S. Department of Education today approved a long-awaited federal waiver that allows LA Unified and seven other California districts to replace No Child Left Behind accountability rules with their own school improvement system.

The waiver creates a unique 14-member oversight body to provide an “unbiased external compliance review” of each district’s progress after a series of self- and peer-evaluations. The group includes a Governor’s appointee and a representative for administrators, school boards, superintendents, unions, parents, the civil rights community, English learners and disabled students.

In effect, compliance with the terms of the waiver will require agreement from factions that routinely disagree with each other to sign off on academic progress.

An oversight panel was not included in earlier versions of the waiver request. It was added as a mechanism to discourage dissent and win support from groups that might otherwise have objected to protocols of the wavier.

Secretary Arne Duncan called the body “unique” among the waivers granted by the Department.

The eight districts from California Office to Reform Education (CORE) include Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana Unified School Districts. Altogether, they represent over 1 million students.

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CA Districts in DC for Final ‘No Child’ Waiver Pitch

CORE Executive Director Rick Miller

CORE Executive Director Rick Miller

Pressed for time, a small group of superintendents and officials from a coalition of nine California school districts, representing 1.1 million students, are on their way to D.C. to ensure that its No Child Left Behind waiver proposal is passed in time for the upcoming school year.

Representatives from the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) will be meeting with federal officials on Wednesday and are still confident that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will approve their request to be exempted from requirements of the federal law that could cause school closures if not met by 2014.

On his way to the airport, CORE Executive Director Rick Miller said the districts might have a better chance of getting the waiver passed if everyone was in the same room.

“We feel like we are really close to getting the waiver passed,” said Miller. “But it’s a 70-something page document with a lot of technical information and it’s a difficult conversation to continue to have digitally.”

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Update: Federal Review “Going In the Right Direction” for LAUSD


It’s still a waiting game for LA Unified and eight other California school districts who have yet to hear if their revised No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver application will be given the thumbs up by the US Department of Education in Washington.

The nine districts, known as California Office to Reform Education (CORE), are still in the dark as to if and when they might be exempted from some of the more stringent requirements of the federal NCLB law that among other things requires all students to be proficient in English and math by 2014.

But spirits remain high.

The Obama administration continues to send positive signals about the process.

“If there are millions of kids and we could make a difference, then that’s something we have to look at,” said Joanne Weiss, chief of staff to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a recent EdWeek interview.

And, according to CORE, the plan to have the waiver accepted by the start of this upcoming school year is still very much in motion.

“We’ve been having less formal, ongoing conversations with the U.S. Department of Education” in recent weeks, Hilary McLean, CORE’s director of communications told LA School Report. “Things seem to be going in the right direction.”

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Duncan Signals Support for LAUSD Waiver Proposal

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan seems to be trying to turn over a new leaf with California Gov. Jerry Brown after years of tense disagreements, notes EdSource Today after Duncan praised Brown’s new funding formula at an event Friday night in San Francisco.

Even more immediately important for LAUSD, Duncan sounded sympathetic to the newly resubmitted No Child Left Behind waiver application request by a consortium of districts including LAUSD calling itself The California Office to Reform Education (CORE) to allow them to revamp school accountability ratings and free up federal funding.

“I think we have some really courageous superintendents who are trying to do the right thing, so we’ll continue to work through the details and go back and forth,” Duncan said of the CORE district application.

Previous posts: Feds Want More Details from Waiver Application;LAUSD Will Resubmit Federal Waiver Application – But Not State;Reform Group Splits over Federal Waiver for LAUSD

LAUSD Proposal Includes Truancy in School Ratings

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Truancy would be a key factor in the new school rating system that’s being proposed by a consortium of California districts including LAUSD, according to a new EdSource Today article.

Chronic absenteeism would be one of the criteria of the group’s proposed new “School Quality Improvement Index,” which is part of a so-called waiver of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind which is currently under review in Washington.

Previous posts: Truancy Series Wins National Journalism Award, Feds Want More Details from Waiver Application

LAUSD Will Resubmit Federal Waiver Application – But Not State*

Three more states — Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia — have been awarded so-called “waivers” from some of the key provisions of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

But there’s still no news on the fate of LAUSD’s application, or whether the state will try and get a statewide waiver.

*UPDATE:  The state Department of Education has issued a statement that it will not be applying for a waiver.  (See below.) The coalition representing LAUSD says that it plans to re-submit its application early next week. Continue reading

Feds Want More Details from Waiver Application

As Education Week reported last Friday, the nine California school districts collectively known as CORE (California Office to Reform Education) are busy revising their application for a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver.

The initial draft of the waiver application sent in by LAUSD and other districts was given to an anonymous peer review group established by the Federal government.  It’s since been reviewed, though neither CORE nor LAUSD are releasing the details.

For the most part, the review panel wanted more details.

“Our original waiver was written at the 30,000-foot level,” said CORE spokesperson Hilary McLean. “The peer review feedback came back, they wanted it at the 10,000-foot level.”

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Reform Group Splits over Federal Waiver for LAUSD

Gloria Romero

Earlier this week, a number of civil rights and school reform groups including Democrats for Education Reform (or DFER) sent a letter to United States Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan opposing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver that LAUSD and eight other California school districts had applied for.

But the next day, Gloria Romero, head of the California chapter of DFER, sent her own letter to Secretary Duncan in support of the LAUSD waiver request.

So what happened?

According to an initial account in Education Week, Romero described the dueling letters as the unintentional result of miscommunication between the state and national divisions.

Commenting on the waiver issue at EdSource, Romero wrote that the national letter “reflected the DC branch and was, unfortunately, submitted without input from the CA DFER office which has long supported the CORE waiver request.”

“I understand the national [DFER organization] is looking at this and saying, let’s be consistent federally,” Romero told LA School Report. “But I think, locked in the bowels of Washington DC, they weren’t privy to the real issues on the street. They didn’t understand — these are the reformers.”

“The CORE group came together to overcome the political obstacles at the state level,” said Romero.  “We need to reward the guys willing to reform by any means necessary.”

“It probably is unusual, but I felt strongly that this was a state issue,” she said — adding later, perhaps a bit jokingly: “I might be out of the job tomorrow. Who knows?”

Previous posts: Civil Rights Groups Oppose LAUSD Waiver;  New Concerns About LAUSD “Waiver”District Waivers Worry State Education Chiefs

Morning Read: Board Likely to Back Classroom Breakfast

L.A. Unified Board Will Back Classroom Breakfast Program
A majority of L.A. Unified School Board members said they will vote to continue a classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by the teachers union. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, KPCC

The Messy Complications of Breakfast in the Classroom
The Los Angeles Unified School District is in a period of tremendous upheaval that, it’s hoped, will result in better education for its students. With so much changing and so much at stake, of course there are more than a few daggers drawn. But when the teachers union and district administration can’t even get together over feeding hungry kids, something sick is going on. LA Times Opinion

Pre-K Funding is Delivered Another Blow
California state funding per child fell by more than than $400 compared with the previous year, and only 41% of 4-year-olds were served by public pre-K programs and Head Start in the 2011-12 school year, the institute reported. LAT

Washington and Sacramento Must End Cold War on Education
It is too late for California to get more than the sliver of Race to the Top funds it has already received. But the administration’s rejection of California’s NCLB waiver request is too important an issue to accept without further urgent efforts on both sides to reach a resolution. EdSource (opinion)

Walton Foundation Gives $8 Million to StudentsFirst
A foundation associated with the Wal-Mart family fortune has expanded its support for the education advocacy group run by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. LA Times

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Civil Rights Groups Oppose LAUSD Waiver

The education publication Education Week is reporting that eight major civil rights groups have written a letter to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan asking him to reject a request made by LAUSD and several other local school districts to give them a waiver from some of the key provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has been a key proponent of the so-called “district waiver,” which he says would allow LAUSD to implement a school accountability plan that’s better than the current one required by NCLB and would also free up roughly $80 million in federal funding currently earmarked for tutoring and transportation.

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Update: New Concerns About LAUSD “Waiver”

While LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says that a federal waiver from the law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) could free up $80 million for student and teacher support services for the district — without reducing school accountability — and the Obama Administration has begun reviewing the LAUSD waiver request, state education officials and now some Washington think tankers are expressing concerns.

In a recent blog post titled “Mr. Secretary, please don’t do it,” Fordham Foundation pundit Andy Smarick writes that a waiver approval for LAUSD and other districts would be “an unprecedented and unwise decision.”

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Morning Read: Parent Trigger Proposal Well-Received

Proposal for Parent-Trigger Overhaul at L.A. School Well-Received
Leaders of a parent group have endorsed a plan to improve 24th Street Elementary, which would be jointly run by L.A. Unified and Crown Prep charter school. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, LA Times Now

Teacher Dismissal Bill Off and Running With Committee Approval
A bill intended to make it quicker and less costly to dismiss teachers received a 7-0 approval from the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, and its author – the chair of the committee, Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – received much praise from her colleagues for taking on a contentious issue. EdSource
See also: Sac Bee

Calif. Districts’ Waiver Bid Now in Review Phase
The U.S. Department of Education and a band of outside peer reviewers are now weighing the details of a precedent-setting waiver application from nine districts in California that want flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act even though their state’s bid for a waiver was unsuccessful. EdWeek

L.A. Unified Filling Security Jobs Created After Newtown Shooting
Los Angeles Unified has hired more than 750 security aides in response to the 26 deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. About 250 openings remain. LA Times

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Morning Read: Michelle Rhee Brings Ed Reform to California

Taking a Crack at California’s Education System
Michelle Rhee came to prominence as the tough-minded chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools. Now she’s in Sacramento, taking on this state’s system — and its teachers unions. LA Times
See also: L.A. Now Live Chat on Rhee and California’s Public Schools

U.S. Ed Department Agrees to Review 9 Districts’ Plan for NCLB Waiver
The nine California districts seeking a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Law have got their foot in the door. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it has accepted their waiver application and will treat it as they would an application from other states, with a formal review. EdSource

Bill Clinton Picks Wendy Greuel as L.A.’s Next Mayor
When a city’s schools fail the city fails. The next generation of L.A.’s job creators will create jobs in cities other than Los Angeles. The next Mayor of Los Angeles is going to have his or her hands full. LA Daily News Column

Miramonte Plaintiffs Want 2013 Trial; LAUSD’s 2014 Trial Request Rejected
The families of students allegedly abused at Miramonte Elementary School are pressing ahead with their demand for a trial. There was a court organizing session Tuesday as they move toward a trial. ABC LA

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District Waivers Worry State Education Chiefs

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has expressed great enthusiasm for the 10-district effort to win a so-called “waiver” from some aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which sets accountability rules and governs the distribution of billions in education funding from Washington.  California State Board of Education members recently voted in support of the effort, according to EdSource.

However, state education chiefs including California’s are expressing concerns about the district waiver idea, according to a new report from Education Week. The State Department of Education has been unable to win a statewide waiver of its own from Washington and previously raised questions about the Deasy-supported district waiver effort (called CORE), notes EdSource.  Now.

Up to now, NCLB waivers have only gone to states, not to districts, and it would be complicated for the state to oversee districts operating under different sets of rules, according to the state chiefs assembled in DC earlier this week. If granted, the waiver would free up an estimated $80 million in funding for support services and professional development, according to Deasy.

Previous posts: Deasy’s Secret Mission to WashingtonDuncan Rejects State Waiver Request.

Morning Read: LAUSD to Pay Millions Over Abuse Lawsuits

LAUSD to Pay Nearly $30M to Settle Miramonte Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Los Angeles Unified will pay nearly $30 million to settle claims by 58 children who say they were victims of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, the veteran educator charged with committing bizarre acts of sex abuse against students, attorneys said Tuesday. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, KPCC, AP, LA Times Now Live

LAUSD Charters Would Lose Funding Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s Budget
Wilbur Elementary got $230,000 in state grants when it converted to a charter last fall. Now, administrators at Wilbur and other affiliated charters, nearly all of them in the San Fernando Valley, are struggling with the news that they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants if lawmakers approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s new formula for funding public education. LA Daily News

L.A. Charter School Aims to Toss Out Students With Fake Addresses
Officials at Carpenter Community Charter, a top-notch elementary, think 120 children are enrolled fraudulently. They want to make room for students who live in the neighborhood. LA Times

Try a Different tack: Hold Teachers Responsible for Education Quality
The logic of the reformers seems to be that teachers unions are so wrongheaded, and the citizenry sufficiently tired of fights about seniority and teacher evaluation, that putting forward a slate of school board candidates is the way to change the balance of power in the school district and mute the pesky union.  But the strategy hasn’t worked. EdSource Opinion

Over-Praising Preschool
Obama wants the government to fund a free year of pre-kindergarten, but studies don’t back up his claims of long-term benefits. LA Times Opinion

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Defiant Mayor Promises Continued Involvement

Photo by Don Liebig / UCLA Luskin

Before and during a Wednesday evening education event held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, a tired-looking Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed frustration about the previous day’s election results — and pledged to keep working on school reform issues even after his term expires.

“Obviously I was disappointed with the results in the fourth district,” Villaraigosa told LA School Report. “I had hoped Kate Anderson would prevail.”

However, he said he was emboldened by District 2 incumbent Monica Garcia‘s victory and was already rolling up his sleeves to help elect District 6 challenger Antonio Sanchez in the runoff. He cast the election in startlingly personal terms.

“I won one, I’m leading in another, and I lost one,” he said, referring to Tuesday’s outcomes. “And I’m not giving up.”

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