Michigan finally gets NCLB waiver

Michigan finally received a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. In the latest round of announcements, Michigan joins Mississippi, South Carolina and the District of Columbia. So far, 32 states have received waivers with eight states being conditionally approved.

The waiver means Michigan will not have to have 100 percent of students proficient on state tests by 2014. The new target requires 85 percent of students be proficient by 2022. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) can now set new interim targets and its own timeline for reaching them. Currently, approximately 21 percent of Michigan schools are not meeting NCLB standards.

Most Michigan schools would not have met the 100 percent level since the state made changes to the way state exams are scored. This year students had to have higher cut scores in order to pass and the number of students proficient dropped significantly

The MDE can set its own accountability system since school districts will no longer have to identify schools for improvement, sanction or restructuring based on meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Instead of a strict yes or no when it comes to AYP, Michigan will move to a color-coding system that labels struggling schools as “red,” schools making progress as “yellow,” and successful schools as “green.”

The state can now also set its own standards for providing assistance to those schools not meeting AYP. School districts will now have to focus on the bottom 30 percent of its students, not just on low-performing schools.

Low performing schools will have the flexibility to use Title I funds. Gone is the requirement that schools have to have at least 40 percent of students in poverty in order to use the money. Schools that are exceeding their performance goals can qualify for bonus funding.
Finally, the MDE will no longer monitor the improvement plans submitted by schools not meeting Highly Qualified teacher standards. Those schools then will also have more flexibility in spending money set aside for those improvement plans.