Couple of quick thoughts on the CORE district No Child Left Behind waiver approved yesterday for a consortia of California school districts:
– It’s only a one-year waiver to start, still the precedent is a big deal.
– I’m not in the camp of ‘any district waiver is a lousy idea.’ If a district or group of districts came forward with something really innovative and rigorous then why not? District waivers are part of the law (as with other waivers reasonable people, and lawyers, can disagree about how far that authority goes) and have been used before under NCLB with a lot less grumbling on process and authority than you’re hearing now…politics anyone? It’s sure hard to argue that the current approach is working well – especially in light of the last set of waivers so we shouldn’t reflexively fear a new approach.
– The problem with this wavier, and the precedent, is that it’s not really either of those things – rigorous or innovative. It’s basically a punt with some key details still TBD (when we asked Education Insiders about some of the ideas there was a lot of skepticism (pdf)). And it seems to be common sense that if you’re going to approve a precedent-setting waiver and die on this hill it ought to be a hill worth dying on. There is little in this waiver, other than some financial flexibility, that these districts couldn’t do – and prove out – without a waiver.
– The people worrying about precedent do have a point. This waiver could well open the door to all sorts of ideas that various constituencies will find highly objectionable when politics change and an administration with a different worldview is in place. But to a large extent that ship already sailed with the earlier round of waivers.
– Just in case education federal policy wasn’t already enough of a grab bag hodgepodge of whatever sounds good in the moment, this ought to really make clear what a mess it is and the steep cost of Congress’ inability to get a No Child Left Behind rewrite done.