Federal Waiver May Boost Local Control

The Long Beach Unified School District  has joined eight other California school districts – who together serve more than a million students – in submitting an application for a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind rules.

The participating districts are part of the nonprofit California Office to Reform Education (CORE), and their collective waiver applications propose to replace the federal rules with a new, higher level of locally-driven accountability that will support efforts to prepare all students for college and careers.

The waiver would restore local control and funding flexibility that LBUSD and other districts have long sought from the federal government.  If the waiver is granted, millions of dollars in federal Title I “set asides” – more than $100 million in the CORE districts alone – will be returned to districts to be spent on more effective ways to improve student achievement.

The participating districts submitted their bundled waiver applications recently to the California State Board of Education for review.  Following a state review period of about three weeks, the waiver applications are expected to be considered by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Federal approval of this waiver will give us flexibility to improve our district’s work to prepare all students for college and careers,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser.  “The current federal accountability bar has been too low and too narrowly focused for too long.  We want a new accountability system that encourages a culture of collaboration and collective responsibility for preparing all students for successful futures and holds us accountable for eliminating disparity.”

The waiver proposal outlines a plan for participating districts to collect and share data far beyond what is necessary for federal accountability purposes.  The additional data will be shared publicly and among participating districts so that they can work together.

To be eligible for the waiver, LBUSD and other participating districts commit to implementing the Common Core State Standards by the 2013-14 school year and transitioning to aligned tests by 2014-15.  The common core standards are part of a national movement to adopt rigorous standards for English and math.

Districts participating in the waiver would share a broad range of data to measure progress on college and career readiness.  Using these data, schools will be identified as a “School of Distinction,” a “Priority School,” or a “Focus School.”  Coaching teams from Schools of Distinction will provide planning and support for improvement at priority and focus schools.

LBUSD will also use the shared data system to strengthen teaching and learning and will work with other CORE districts to identify elements that will be common among educator effectiveness and evaluation systems that each district will develop individually and implement by the 2014-15 school year.  The waiver does not supersede local bargaining rights in any way, and LBUSD’s current teacher evaluation system meets federal waiver requirements.

The CORE districts hope to secure federal approval by June.

View the full CORE Waiver Plan.