The White Hall School District will no longer have to meet the No Child Left Behind benchmarks known as Adequate Yearly Progress.
On its best day, NCLB was arbitrary and unrealistic. It required that all students achieve grade-level proficiency by 2014 — regardless of their circumstances.
In late June Arkansas was granted flexibility from some longstanding requirements of NCLB, adopted by Congress in 2001. Beginning with this school year there will be one classification system for all schools, using the same measures and indicators.
The NCLB goal of 100 percent proficient has been replaced with a new goal of reducing proficiency gaps by half by 2017.
It is as if common sense has kicked in when it comes to evaluating schools. It also means parents, teachers and administrators must learn a new language when it comes to evaluating progress in the classrooms.
Educators can focus on specific problems unique to each public school in Arkansas. They will still have rigorous standards, but they’ll be more realistic.
The state will continue to hold schools accountable for closing achievement gaps, but schools won’t be subject to a system of increasingly unrealistic annual target of AYP.
Under the waiver the Arkansas Board of Education establishes its own goals for increasing overall student achievement, as well as the achievement of students in demographic subgroups.
Flexibility means multiple counting of students in more than one subgroup — by race, economically disadvantaged and with disabilities, for example, — would be eliminated. Annual benchmarks will be set with the goal of reducing the failure rate in reading and math by 50 percent within six years.
It requires real change in the lowest performing schools, allows for locally-tailored solutions based on individual school needs, and recognizes schools for success.