Senate Education Chair Replies to Governor on NCLB Waiver Request
Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), chair of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, today issued the following statement on the latest developments regarding Iowa’s application for a waiver of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“I am disappointed in Governor Branstad’s superficial response to the latest round of feedback from the U.S. Department of Education. Had the governor taken more time to read the bipartisan legislation that he himself signed, he would have realized that we gave him exactly what the feds asked for in a form nearly identical to the governor’s original request.
“In a recent letter to Iowa Education Director Jason Glass, the US DoE stated that it wanted Iowa to provide new guidelines “or a plan to develop and adopt those guidelines” for a statewide system for evaluating teachers and administrators. The final version of Senate File 2284, which received unanimous bipartisan support from all ten Republican and Democratic legislators on the conference committee, provided just such a plan.
“The governor’s press release criticizes SF 2284 for creating a task force of education professionals to develop a draft of these guidelines. That, however, is exactly what the governor’s original bill requested on page 8 of Senate Study Bill 3009. Branstad set a deadline for the task force to report by October 15. SF 2284 sets the same deadline for the same task force.
“The DoE letter lists six specific points it desires for the evaluation system. All six are either already established in SF 2284 (e.g., annual evaluations) or are included in the bill’s charge to the task force (e.g., using measures of student growth and differentiating at least three performance levels). Again the language in the final bill directing the task force is virtually identical to what the governor’s original bill draft tells his task force to do.
“The one thing that the governor requested but that SF 2284 did not do was to give Education Director Glass the unilateral power to adopt the educator evaluation system without legislative approval. Both houses of the Legislature and both parties agreed that that was too much power to vest in an unelected bureaucrat.
“Instead of engaging in election-year finger pointing that misrepresents the truth, Governor Branstad should do two things. First, he would better serve the interests of Iowa’s students by buckling down and getting to work with the task force that he requested and that the legislature gave him, so that they can meet the October 15 deadline that he and we set. If they meet that deadline, then we in the Senate look forward to reviewing their recommendations and formulating appropriate legislation to be ready for early consideration in next January’s legislative session.
“Second, Branstad and Education Director Glass need to do a much better job at communicating to the US DoE that we have accomplished exactly what the feds have requested for the NCLB waiver. So far, they have fumbled the ball.”
For reference, the legislation in question can easily be found online:
- The governor’s original bill, SSB 3009, is at
- The final bill, SF 2284, is at
- The governor’s “Statewide Educator Evaluation System Task Force” is on page 8 of SSB 3009.
- The Legislature’s identically titled task force is on page 5 of SF 2284.
- On the use of student achievement data for teacher evaluations, see Section 10, p.5, lines 19-33 of SSB 3009 and the virtually identical Section 9, paragraph 5, pp.5-6 of SF 2284.
- On the requirement to rank educators’ performance levels, both bills propose a four-tiered evaluation system, using the exact same sentence on page 8 of SSB 3009 (lines 18-20) and on page 6 (paragraph number 6) of SF 2284.
- The U.S. Department of Education letter is at
In response to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, Iowa was required to set Annual Measurable Objectives using trajectories that would require all students to be proficient in both reading and math by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is the NCLB provision that established a timeline under which schools must raise all students to the proficient level in reading and math. This proficiency is established through scores obtained on a common assessment determined by each state. In Iowa this proficiency is determined through student achievement data from ITBS and ITED and the alternate assessment.
The state established a formula to reach 100% proficiency by 2014. Each school and district must meet AYP each year. If this objective is not met for each subject area and each subgroup of students for two consecutive years, that school will be identified as a School in Need of Assistance (SINA).
The Waiver from NCLB that we’re talking about now is a waiver from the NCLB AYP requirements. However, we have heard – but not confirmed – that the Federal USDE is allowing states to hold their current proficiency rates for a year. Meaning – Iowa would NOT have to reach an incrased percent proficient next year and 100 percent proficient in 2014. Iowa’s NCLB proficiency requirements would remain the same for 2012-2013 school year as they were the previous school year. This is good news because it means there is little to no real or perceived negative impact to not receiving a waiver.
THE WAIVER PROCESS: To receive waivers, states have to agree to adopt:
- “College- and career-ready” academic standards, such as the Common Core State Standards;
- Systems for evaluating teachers and principals which will be tied in some way to student progress on achievement tests;
- Providing meaningful information about school performance, student achievement and graduation rates, closing gaps for all schools across the state, and targeting schools that need help Performance standards for high school and elementary/middle schools. To do this, the states use a prescribed formula to get to the Performance Targets in 2017;
- Taking aggressive steps to improve academic performance in the lowest performing schools; Testing students annually in grades 3-8 and once in high school, in reading and math.
In exchange, schools would be:
- Released from the deadline for having all students reach proficiency in 2014;
- Released from the sanctions for not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the law, such as restructuring struggling schools or implementing tutoring or public school choice;
- Expected to set new academic targets;
- Expected to establish goals that recognize the growth in student test scores over time. This is a step federal officials say has been made possible by advances in states’ testing and accountability systems;
- Allowed to tailor interventions to meet the needs of individual schools and subgroups of students. States that are not granted waivers will be expected to comply with existing law (including universal proficiency by 2014) and implementing established targets for schools and subgroups, among other requirements.
Iowa Department of Education
For Immediate Release
June 21, 2012
For More Information:
Federal government turns down Iowa’s NCLB waiver request
DES MOINES, IA – Because of recent Iowa legislation, the U.S. Department of Education cannot approve Iowa’s state application for a waiver from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass said today.
The central stumbling block is a new statutory requirement, passed by the Iowa Legislature this past session, that any changes to the system of educator evaluation must be approved by the Legislature.
“This was a missed opportunity for Iowa’s schools to find relief from a law that holds them to unrealistic measures and then blames them for failure,” Glass said. “We made it clear to the Legislature in committee meetings and in writing that the Iowa Department of Education needed statutory authority to move forward on implementing a waiver-compliant evaluation system. The Legislature did not follow through.”
The Iowa Department of Education’s waiver proposal, submitted in February, reflects a bold accountability system that fits the state’s context and emphasizes student growth and progress in addition to proficiency on tests.
The proposal was well-received by the U.S. Department of Education, which commended the Iowa Department of Education for its work to develop “high-quality plans to transition to college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments, as well as to develop a differentiated recognition, accountability and support system that holds strong promise to improve student achievement.”
Iowa Department of Education officials worked with U.S. Department of Education officials throughout the spring to answer questions and to make revisions that closely aligned Iowa’s waiver application to federal guidelines.
The Iowa Department of Education also indicated throughout the 2012 session of the Iowa Legislature that state education policies must be brought in line with the waiver proposal for Iowa’s application to be successful.
Specifically, Director Glass requested the statutory authority to develop frameworks for teacher and principal evaluations that differentiate performance using three levels and reflect multiple, valid measures, including data on student growth.
However, the Legislature’s final education package did not give the Iowa Department of Education the authority to develop and implement evaluation and support systems that meet the waiver requirements. Instead, Senate File 2284 directs a task force to study these issues and make recommendations for the 2013 legislative session.
The lack of authority was cited in a U.S. Department of Education letter today as the reason Iowa’s waiver application cannot be approved.
###Posted Jun. 22nd, 2012 at 10:18 am by Senate Staff