Last week, Nevada became the 33rd state to receive a waiver from No Child Left Behind regulations, which means that more than 1 million students will be covered by state-designed accountability systems heading into the 2012-13 school year, according to the Education Department. Four states are still waiting for approval, and 13 have yet to apply. The next date for applications will be Sept. 6.
The sheer volume of states that are operating under the waivers signals the end of the era of the groundbreaking education law. In its wake, there will be a host of state-designed programs that may or may not provide the answer for overhauling the elementary and secondary education system. (Congress cannot be counted on to update the law, although Education Secretary Arne Duncan made yet another plea for legislative action last week.) Meanwhile, an analysis of the approved waivers from the Center for American Progress found that states did not articulate "new innovations" in their applications, a troubling notion. CAP found that the states were, however, able to articulate their ongoing goals to improve their schools, a helpful exercise.
The impact of the waiver program now will depend on the states following through with their goals. "Any of the innovations noted in this report will fade quickly if they are not implemented with fidelity and persistence," the CAP report said. What's more, the shifting political winds could undermine even the most simplistic changes as educators and state officials wait on a possible new administration. It's hard to imagine officials taking chances now if the next guys in the White House aren't going to care about their efforts.
What are the best outcomes that could come from the waiver program? Where are the pitfalls, if any? What will accountability look like in one year? Two years? How will the 13 states that have not requested waivers (Texas is the biggest) fare under the 2014 benchmarks set by No Child Left Behind? What will be the legacy of No Child Left Behind in the wake of the waivers?