For immediate release
May 13, 2011
USDOE denies State Board’s AYP waiver request
Kansas education reform efforts deemed important, difficult
TOPEKA – The State Board of Education’s request for flexibility in how Kansas schools are held accountable for meeting performance requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was denied today by the U.S. Department of Education. In a phone call to Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education Michael Yudin said that while there was great appreciation for the hard work Kansas was undertaking in education reform efforts, it was the feeling of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that the best way to assist states in those efforts was through timely reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
“I certainly understand the Secretary’s position, but I’m very disappointed in this decision,” said State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis. “I feel strongly that we need to be focused on a growth model for accountability purposes and I’m hopeful Congress will understand the urgency involved for our schools and heed the President’s call to reauthorize ESEA by the start of the next school year.”
In February, Dennis sent a letter to Duncan on behalf of the State Board asking that Kansas be allowed to hold its targets for performance on reading and math assessments to 2009-10 levels while it worked to transition to new Common Core Standards in mathematics and English/language arts and implement new assessments aligned with those standards. If granted, the waiver would have meant Kansas schools would not have had to demonstrate that 100 percent of Kansas students were proficient on reading and math assessments by 2014. In April, Dennis followed up with a second letter to Duncan, reiterating the state’s commitment to continued education reform and assuring the Secretary that if the waiver was granted, Kansas schools would not stop pushing toward improved performance.
“The Secretary was very appreciative of the hard work being done in Kansas to transition to college- and career-ready standards and to implement the next generation of assessments, and he acknowledged that Kansas was moving in the right direction,” DeBacker said. “However, it is the position of the U.S. Department of Education that there are more pieces of the NCLB legislation that need to be fixed than just the accountability piece, and that the best way to fix those problems is through the reauthorization of ESEA.”
The decision by the U.S. Department of Education means that in order to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures, Kansas schools and school districts will need to have at least 87.8 percent of students in grades K-8 at meets standards or above on state reading assessments, and at least 86 percent of grade 9-12 students meeting or exceeding standards in reading. The math targets for proficiency are 86.7 percent in grades K-8 and 82.3 percent in grades 9-12.
“Even knowing that we had a waiver request pending, Kansas educators have been working hard preparing students to meet the proficiency standards as originally set out in our state accountability plan,” DeBacker said. “As a state, we have a high percentage of schools and districts that make AYP, and I believe we’ll continue to have a high percentage achieving AYP this year. Unfortunately, as the targets move closer to 100 percent over the next couple of years, we’ll begin to see more and more schools miss the mark. Our job will be to continue supporting the efforts of educators and students, even as they struggle with some fairly unrealistic expectations.”
Statewide AYP reports are released in August.