Haslam asks Obama team to waive federal No Child Left Behind standards for state

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 2:08pm

With nearly half the state’s schools failing to meet federal education standards in results released Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam asked the Obama administration to waive the law’s requirements for Tennessee.

Haslam said the escalating standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law are impossible to meet and predicted an overwhelming majority of Tennessee schools would fail in the future.

“It’s like telling a lot of us, ‘You need to swim from California to Hawaii tomorrow,’ ” the governor said. “Well, none of us are going to make it. That’s not a good standard. Give us a way that we can show that we’re making real progress.”

Haslam said he is asking U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to let Tennessee replace the federal measures with ones the state government set.

“I want to be very clear about this point,” the governor told reporters. “Applying for a waiver is not about making excuses in Tennessee. It’s actually about just the opposite. We’re making significant progress in education.”

Tennessee is “capable of … measuring ourselves in a rigorous way,” he said.

President Obama has asked Congress to overhaul the decade-old No Child Left Behind law, but Haslam pointed out “indications out of Washington are that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.”

Duncan has said he anticipates more than 80 percent of schools nationwide will fail to meet the requirements by 2014. Duncan proposed granting waivers to states. At least one other state — Kentucky — has asked for a waiver so far, and many more are considering it.

In order to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the law, schools must satisfy ever-increasing performance targets. More than 800 of Tennessee’s 1,700 schools failed to meet the standards this year. But Haslam pointed out 80 percent of those failing schools still made improvements in either math or reading test scores.

“We want to be held accountable for results,” state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said. “In my belief, we should be looking at school district trajectories. Most schools and districts that failed to meet AYP this year actually improved their results and in some cases quite significantly. From my perspective, we should hold school districts in the state for improving student performance. AYP is not a gauge of that anymore.

“If we do not get a waiver … we will be back here in a year announcing that the vast majority of schools in the state failed to meet AYP,” Huffman added. “We could grow student achievement levels by 5 percent, by 10 percent across the board and that would still be true. This is now a distraction from the real work of education reform in this state, which is why we’ve requested this waiver.”

10 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 7/29/11 at 1:21

Every white child left behind is another vote for the Republican party.

By: gdiafante on 7/29/11 at 1:28

Yeah...and they'll get an exemption, then they'll eventually impose weaker standards, which they'll fail to meet and it goes on and on...meanwhile, the populace gets dumber and dumber.

Oh well, it won't matter, the nation will default, interest rates will skyrocket, the dollar will plunge, inflation/prices will increase...so education will be the least of our worries.

By: T-BONE on 7/29/11 at 1:53

The "DUMBING OF AMERICA" is everybody's fault.....EVERYBODY'S!
Think about it!

By: pswindle on 7/29/11 at 3:33

Are we talking about Bush's "No Child Left Behind?" He screwed up every thing about America that was good.

By: GammaMoses on 7/30/11 at 7:26

Bet Arne Duncan couldn't even meet "No Child Left Behind" standards if he were still running Chicago public schools. Maybe he'll be sympathetic to Tennessee's problem of failing AYP grades in the public schools. Meanwhile, our children are not being properly educated. Separate the learners from the non-learners. Don't waste the smart kids in environments where they are being dumbed down. Look at the example of our leaders from the President on down. Do they have their kids in a classroom trying to achieve "No Child Left Behind" standards? NOOOOOO. And to pswindle, Bush was attempting to solve a problem that appears to be unsolvable.

By: Balo on 7/30/11 at 11:59

This is a valid request by the Governor. This politically motivated program by the Bush group arguably is one of the worst ideas in American education. I strongly ask that the Governor and the state legislature follow suit and withdraw or refrain from enacting any policy action which pertains to education. It is apparent that our political leaders forgot that the educational standards is the responsibility of each county of this great state.

By: pswindle on 7/30/11 at 1:29

You can't put a good face on anything that Bush did. He just about ruined our country. When Bush was Governor of Texas, the teachers had to teach the test. That is why their test scores wee better than most. The students were not being educated, they were taught how to cheat.

By: GammaMoses on 7/30/11 at 6:09

If commentators on this blog want to politicize NCLB, I'll play your game. NCLB chief champion was Dem. Ted Kennedy. He worked on pushing NCLB during Bush's reign with Dem. George Miller, Repub. Judd Gregg, Repub. John Boehner. So both parties had a hand in passing NCLB. Their intentions were good. Make teachers accountable, help students. It didn't work. Now let's stop the blame game and really help Tenn. schools by finding a solution other than blaming politicians.

By: macjedi on 8/1/11 at 8:09

Oh, goodie. We were too dumb to vote for you, Mr. President, and now we're too dumb for this.

By: localboy on 8/1/11 at 9:51

Standards? Standards? We don't need no stinking standards...