KSBA eNews Service, Frankfort, Aug. 25, 2014
Holliday: Current NCLB waiver process threatens negative impact on improving teaching and learning
By Brad Hughes
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday fired his second volley in two weeks against the U.S. Department of Education, this time accusing the agency of violating state and federal law in forcing Kentucky to rush its implementation of the Next-Generation science standards.
In his weekly Web blog Friday, Holliday confirmed that USED officials had rejected his agency’s request to delay measuring the science standards in the spring 2014 K-PREP exams – an action the commissioner said is illegal.
“USED expects Kentucky to give a science assessment that measures our previous science standards in spring 2015. This expectation not only violates our state law, but, also violates NCLB (the No Child Left Behind Act) that requires states to assess science (once in elementary and middle school) based on current state standards,” he said.
“This is only one example of how the current waiver process is stifling innovation and intruding on a state's ability to implement state requirements contained in state legislation. There are other Kentucky examples and, in a recent meeting with other state chiefs, I heard many similar stories from other states,” said Holliday, who also serves as the president of the board of the Council of Chief State School Officers, an organization of public officials who head state departments of elementary and secondary education.
Earlier this month, USED Secretary Arne Duncan approved requests by Kentucky and several other states for a one-year extended waiver of some NCLB mandates for the 2014-15 school year. The waiver process was created in response to a failure by Congress to complete reauthorization of NCLB. Those talks are ongoing between U.S. House and Senate negotiators.
A week ago in a separate blog, Holliday first complained that the waiver process was not what state education leaders had been led to believe would take place.
“There is significant evidence from many states that the waiver extension process has not been streamlined. State chiefs have reported to me and our Kentucky experience has shown that our staffs spent hundreds of hours in preparing what was supposed to have been a streamlined application (our initial waiver extension request was almost 200 pages). Also, our staff spent many hours in conference calls and rewriting our waiver application based on questions raised from USED staff,” he said.
“As one state chief, speaking only for Kentucky, it is time to end this process. It is time for Congress to act. We need a stable, long-range plan, not a series of cobbled-together waivers that take away staff time from the work of improving education for all children,” Holliday said.
In his latest blog, Holliday said the new science standards, required in 2009 when the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, are being taught in Kentucky classrooms this year. But the commissioner said the implementation process needs time.
“We have learned from teachers that they need at least two years of implementing standards prior to assessing them. Additionally, Kentucky teachers and national science assessment experts told us that new science assessments will need to be very different than typical multiple-choice tests,” Holliday said. “We needed the waiver in order to provide time for our teachers to actually implement standards and develop new assessment items for field testing in spring of 2015. We committed to having an assessment of student achievement in science by 2016.”
Holliday, who championed Kentucky being the first state to adopt “common core standards” in English/language arts and math in 2010, wants the federal government to focus on its role in education, and let state and local school leaders to do their jobs.
“States are responsible for education. Local school districts have tremendous flexibility and control in implementing state expectations. The federal role is and should continue to be limited to support for disadvantaged children,” the commissioner said. “Hopefully, Congress will reauthorize NCLB soon and build in the flexibility for states and local school districts to be innovative in meeting the needs of all children by improving teaching and learning.”
Links to both of the Holliday’s Web blogs may be accessed here http://education.ky.gov/CommOfEd/blog/Pages/default.aspx.