An Incentive Program for the Feds
Race To the Top was the Federal Incentive program for states to adopt common core and the assessments. Maybe what they need now is a state developed incentive program for them to clean up their act.
Utah lawmakers are considering dropping their request for an extension of their No Child Left Behind waiver. This could be another domino falling away from the federal department of education’s control of state education agencies.
Washington State held similar debates this spring about the teacher evaluation portion of their waiver requirements. For years they had tied teacher evaluations to student test scores. The only difference between their evaluation program and the federally “incentivized” one was that they allowed school districts to choose from a number of tests to demonstrate student proficiency. The Feds would only accept scores from the common core aligned standardized tests.
Washington lawmakers decided to take federal law as, well, the law and stick with their own teacher evaluation plan. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act forbids the federal government from “exercis[ing] any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.” Seems a teacher evaluation that determines whether you get to keep your job is about as close to direct control over personnel as you can get. DC did pull Washington’s waiver but the state is standing strong and finding ways to work around the loss of flexibility over their $40 million in federal Title I funding.
Oklahoma is the latest state now to test the federal control using the waiver. Proponents of the recently signed anti-common core bill have been quick to point out that the percentage of money that the $27 million federal Title I represents in their overall state budget is very low, and all they will lose is flexibility in spending it.
The other consequences of losing an NCLB waiver, possible school closures for underperforming schools and the ability of students to transfer to non-failing schools have already been addressed by the Missouri legislature so there would be little new consequence for our state if we lost our waiver.
The biggest risk for the federal government, and when you’re all about control as the USDoEd clearly is with their heavy handed treatment of Washington state its a big risk, is that states will learn what companies learned with the 2008 (and lingering) recession. They can do as much with a lot less. Businesses learned that they could have fewer employees and not lose an appreciable amount of productivity. This is one of the reasons we have not seen a correction back to pre-2008 employment levels. Businesses have found no need to.
What states will lose without the waiver is flexibility to spend Title I funds. The feds are gambling on is that their required use for those funds will provide the maximum benefit to the most at risk students, that they know exactly what to do for those students. States will have to use the money exactly as the feds say. How will the feds look if the academic performance among those groups drops? For the current administration this is a significant portion of their voting block. How are those voting parents going to feel in a couple years when they find out their kids are doing worse, or even doing exactly the same as before? There was no miracle cure coming from outside the family to help their children. It will be an interesting experiment and the feds have gone all in.
Utah Sate Board of Education member Dave Thomas told the Salt Lake Tribune, “We get beat up by our federal delegation, with a couple of exceptions, for having taken the waiver and yet I see no rush on the part of our federal delegation to fix No Child Left Behind and maybe we should give them some kind of an incentive.”
As more states begin to thumb their noses at federal agency control over education, and the public finds that federal programs are not as effective as promised, we may find the incentive for Congress to get off their tuckuses and finally repeal No Child Left Behind, recognizing it for the blemish it is on THEIR faces.