In one of his first acts as education commissioner, Michael Williams sent a letter to school districts on Thursday announcing that the state would join the more than 30 others that have already asked for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
But unlike the other states, Texas is appealing under U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's general authority to waive federal requirements rather than under a specific waiver Duncan began offering states last year. State officials have resisted applying for the second type of waiver, saying the strings attached — like the requirement that states adopt certain college-ready and career-ready standards — amounted to federal overreach.
The request, which the state will officially file in early 2013, is for a general exemption from the law in the hopes that the state wouldn’t have to adhere to the conditions of the waiver Duncan has offered to all the states.
"The state recognizes that the lack of NCLB’s reauthorization in a timely manner has created an obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state’s schools," Williams wrote in the letter. "This, combined with [schools] being required to meet and function within two different assessment and accountability systems, takes valuable resources and time away from the intent and focus of improving student achievement and school accountability."
Texas' current standards for college and career readiness and teacher qualification, as well as the newly implemented assessment system, already surpass the federal law's requirements, Williams wrote, and a waiver will help give school districts additional flexibility while "reducing duplication."
Among other requirements, the 2001 federal law set a goal for public school students' passing rates on standardized tests to be at 100 percent in both reading and math by 2014. The agency announced this month that only 44 percent of Texas schools met this year’s goal of an 87 percent passing rate for reading and an 83 percent passing rate for math on the state’s standardized tests.