Governor Dannel P. Malloy and United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced that Connecticut's application for a waiver from certain mandates imposed by the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has been approved. The waiver, which grants states greater flexibility for implementing school reforms, comes just weeks after Governor Malloy and legislative leaders reached an agreement to begin fixing what's broken in Connecticut's public schools.
The NCLB Waiver, among other things, will ensure that Connecticut:
has greater flexibility with Federal Title 1 dollars, meaning that the state can now use that money to fund programs and reform models that are right for Connecticut and gets it to the students who need it;
avoids a situation where nearly half of the state's public schools would have been deemed "failing" -- setting in motion massive restructuring and possibly even school closures; and
creates a system that more accurately measures student achievement across all levels.
"Receiving a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act will ensure that Connecticut has the flexibility to implement a reform plan that fits our state, one that is not bound strictly by federal mandates," Governor Malloy said. "For years, while other states implemented education reform plans, Connecticut stuck to the old way of doing things and many of our students suffered for it. But the debate we had over the last few months sent a powerful message -- that we were finally serious about turning around struggling schools. Now that we have a reform plan in place, we will begin working in earnest to close the nation's largest achievement gap. I want to thank Secretary Duncan for joining us today and the members of the General Assembly for their work on this issue. Without the reform effort we began this session, this day would not have come."
"I want to commend Connecticut for demonstrating real courage that made it one of the leading states in this round of plans," Secretary Duncan said. "Connecticut's plan to adopt college and career-ready standards, elevate and support teachers, and focus resources in order to close the achievement gap will include hundreds more schools and thousands more children who were invisible under NCLB. Connecticut's hard work and collaboration show that state and local leaders are ready to lead the way in education reform."
Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said, "This waiver application captures the education reform activities Connecticut is genuinely and vigorously in the process of pursuing. From Common Core implementation to low performing school turnaround to educator evaluation, we were able to convey Connecticut's authentic agenda in our presentation to the federal Education Department. We're proud that our state's application has been approved and we're very grateful for the flexibility Secretary Duncan is enabling us to exercise in pursuit of our Connecticut agenda. After too many years of failing to secure significant federal approvals for our education work here in Connecticut, we are finally entering an era of strong state/federal partnership regarding the strengthening of our schools."
NCLB requires a series of sanctions for schools that do not achieve 100 percent student proficiency on standardized assessments by 2014. Connecticut's waiver establishes a new, more comprehensive system of measuring student academic achievement and progress across all performance bands; adds writing and science assessments to the accountability system; and holds high schools accountable for graduation rates in addition to test scores. This system will inform schools' eligibility for the Commissioner's Network and will inform Alliance Districts' work with schools of varying performance levels.
Connecticut's waiver calls for implementation of the Common Core State Standards and new assessments aligned to those standards in 2014-15; authorization of intensive interventions and supports necessary to turn around Connecticut's lowest performing schools and districts; a new, enhanced system of teacher and principal evaluation and support; and reduction of red tape and undue administrative burdens placed on districts.
All of these initiatives, set forth as guiding principles for education reform by Governor Malloy in December, were affirmed or enhanced with passage of Senate Bill 458, An Act Concerning Educational Reform, which was signed into law by Governor Malloy on May 14, 2012.