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NCLB waiver strings and NM

The good people at Education Week reported last month that states with waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act can’t just rest on their laurels. Those waivers will expire at the end of this school year, and states will have to apply for renewals to get another two years of reprieve from the act.

The Ed Week story outlines some implications of that, but here’s the one I think is the most interesting:

“States getting a waiver renewal must also continue implementing new teacher-evaluation systems by the 2014-15 school year—but the waiver renewals would take these requirements a step further. States must, by October 2015, use teacher-evaluation data to ensure that poor and minority students are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers. This issue of teacher distribution is a very important one to civil rights groups.”

This has the potential to be a big deal. At this point, we don’t know how the PED’s new teacher evaluation system will shake out, in terms of which teachers will get top ratings. We do know that several years ago, lower paid tier-one teachers were disproportionately at low-income schools. But that may not tell us much, because the LFC found that the three-tier system doesn’t correspond to the kind of test score growth measured by the new teacher evaluation system.

At the end of this year, teachers around New Mexico will have a ranking on a scale from “highly effective” to “ineffective.” And if New Mexico wants to keep its No Child Left Behind waiver, the state will be on the hook to make sure the most effective and the least effective teachers (according to the system) are distributed equitably. Historically, the state hasn’t had the power to move teachers around. In fact, APS can’t even move its own teachers around. So how will this work?

I asked Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera about this issue, and she said New Mexico will definitely apply for a waiver renewal. She said the U.S. Department of Education hasn’t released the full guidance to states yet, so it’s too early to say how this new requirement will shake out in New Mexico and whether, for example, legislation might be required. But she did say it is on the PED’s radar and they’re ready to move forward.

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