The Messenger 02.10.12
By LUCAS JOHNSON II
NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that he hopes Tennessee’s waiver from the No Child Left Behind education law boosts the morale of teachers and other educators frustrated by the federal measure’s strict and sweeping requirements.
President Barack Obama announced Tennessee is among 10 states to receive the waiver. The others are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massa-chusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oklahoma. The only state that applied for the flexibility and did not receive it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval.
Haslam told reporters after a speech at a luncheon hosted by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association that he had heard from teachers who said their students were improving, but their school was still labeled failing.
“That would be demotivating to me if I’m a teacher and making real progress … and yet I’m labeled a failure,” said the Republican governor.
No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014, which critics have said is unrealistic.
The states excused from following the law no longer have to meet that deadline. Instead, they had to put forward plans showing they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.
Under its waiver, Tennessee is proposing to raise overall achievement by at least 3 percent each year and to cut achievement gaps in half over an 8-year period.
To track progress, the state was required to divide schools into categories with targeted interventions or rewards for each group.
For instance, some schools will be recognized for their high performance and rapid growth. Others will be targeted for low proficiency and large achievement gaps between subgroups of students defined by race, economic status, disability and English skills.
State officials said schools that are successful will have an opportunity to share what they’re doing with struggling schools, which will be given the necessary resources by the state to improve.
Al Mance, executive director of the Tennessee Education Association, said “the Tennessee approach is a good one.”
“The goal was never realistic,” he said of the federal education law. “This will give us a better opportunity to approach it in ways that have a better chance of being effective than previously.”
House Speaker Beth Harwell said the waiver provides “more flexibility to better meet the needs of our local schools.”
“I’ve traveled the state quite a bit and there’s quite a difference in the schools of inner city Memphis as opposed to Bristol or Mountain City,” she said. “And we’ve got to have that flexibility to best meet the need of our students.”