CON: Waivers come with strings attached

Feb. 19, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 19, 2012 at 8:20 p.m.

With more than 80 percent of schools in some states failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards, Texas is on the list of relatively well-performing states.

And some people praise Commissioner of Education Robert Scott for so far not caving to No Child pressure that might compromise some of the state's education values.

Dwight Harris, the Victoria area representative for the Texas Federation of Teachers, said his organization does not support one of the strings attached to getting a No Child waiver: tying teacher evaluations to student performance.

"One of the areas that really troubles (American Federation of Teachers) is that you have to agree to use student test scores as a part of evaluating teachers in a manner that's not fundamentally sound," he said. "In terms of what is currently being done with those metrics, we haven't seen anything that's being done that works."

When applying for a waiver from the Department of Education, states will not be subject to some No Child provisions - like ensuring 100 percent of students pass math and reading tests by 2014 - but they will be required to revamp other areas as determined by the federal government.

"It's not an easy decision. The (Obama) administration clearly wants to drive states that get waivers down certain paths, and Texas is not too keen on following the dictates of the federal government," said Sandy Kress, an Austin attorney who was senior adviser to George W. Bush on No Child issues.

For Texas, the buck stops at teacher evaluations and the possibility of having to implement the Common Core Standards, a curriculum that has been adopted by all but five states, including Texas.

Kress said Texas curriculum could probably hold up under federal scrutiny, but the fact remains no one quite knows where No Child is headed. The law was up for reauthorization in 2007, but without a bipartisan consensus on overhauling the bill, it remains - begrudgingly to many in Congress - in effect.

Kress contends Texas might hold out.

"Given the fact we're not in as extreme a position as other states and given the fact we may not want to be dictated to relative to teacher (evaluations). maybe we'll wait a year to see," he said.

Harris, meanwhile, said there are plenty of ways to dissect the debate about No Child waivers, but his position remains with what he thinks is best for teachers and students.

"If you're falling behind, or not meeting the standard, whatever the consequences are you have to live with that," Harris said. "The bottom line is, did you do what you're supposed to do to help the kids?"



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