Federal education officials say Oklahoma's public school standards aren't sufficiently preparing students for college or careers and will pull a waiver that lets the state bypass some provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to the state Thursday saying that while Oklahoma had benefited from the flexibility, it couldn't justify an extension.
Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle said Oklahoma had promised to carry out plans to improve education for all students. This year, however, Oklahoma overturned its Common Core standards and adopted those in place in 2010. Delisle told Oklahoma officials they "can no longer demonstrate that the state's standards are college- and career-ready standards."
Educators in Indiana and Kansas were granted one-year waivers Thursday, allowing them to continue state-developed programs.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi directed state education officials to immediately begin the task of compliance with NCLB, which is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
“This decision by the federal government is disappointing and frustrating. Oklahoma has made significant strides forward in strengthening our schools, progress that has largely been possible because of the flexibility of the waiver,” Barresi said. “The loss of the waiver will be a significant challenge for our districts and schools, as well as for this state agency. But Oklahomans are resilient and resolute, and our education community will do what needs to be done to meet the requirements of NCLB.”
The NCLB Flexibility Waiver gave the state and districts relief on 13 federal regulations.
Although Oklahoma must comply with the bulk of NCLB as soon as possible, federal officials stipulated that a key component of that law won’t have to be implemented until the 2015-2016 school year. Oklahoma will have one year to comply with a requirement that 20 percent of Title I funds be set aside for supplemental educational services (SES) and transportation for school choice.
Oklahoma will be required to monitor district compliance with all other regulations that have been waived for the last two school years, including limiting how districts can spend many of their federal dollars.
No Child Left Behind regulations also limit which schools may apply for certain grants, what annual targets must be set for improvement in each school, and even which schools are eligible for Title I funds. Most notably, NCLB regulations will require some schools to replace staff, change curriculum or possibly shut down.
Upward of 90 percent of Oklahoma schools are expected to be affected to some degree by the loss of the waiver. Under NCLB, schools must meet 100-percent proficiency on a number of benchmarks to avoid being designated as a school in need of improvement. The number of failing schools in need of improvement could now swell from its current 490 to more than 1,600, according to NCLB definitions of failing.
“The loss of the waiver became all but inevitable with the passage of HB 3399. That became more of a certainty when higher education did not evaluate PASS to be college- and career-ready and the State Board of Education delayed starting the process toward new standards. The federal regulations being imposed on Oklahoma are counterproductive and overly rigid, but the time for hand-wringing is over,” said Barresi.
“Oklahoma must craft and implement outstanding academic standards for ELA and math that are college- and career-ready. To simply take PASS standards and attempt to improve them and call them college- and career-ready may satisfy the federal government to allow flexibility in spending, but it relegates our children to the same sad culture and set of expectations that existed when I entered office.”