US Department of Education Reinstates Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind Waiver

Monday, November 24th 2014, 1:34 pm
By: News 9

The U.S. Department of Education has reinstated Oklahoma's "No Child Left Behind" waiver, just months after it was removed following the state's repeal of Common Core back in June 2014.

On August 28, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) removed Oklahoma's waiver after the state failed to put in place a comprehensive plan in place of Common Core. The USDE requires all states applying for waivers to use English language arts and mathematics standards aligned with college- and career-ready guidelines, and the Common Core repeal made that problematic.

In a letter sent to Oklahoma State Superintendent, Janet Barresi, Department of Education officials said, "Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that the State's standards are college- and career-ready standards."

The waiver allows the state to appropriate federal education funds as it sees fit. The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) asked for reinstatement of the waiver in October after establishing new educational guidelines. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reconsidered the earlier decision after Oklahoma higher education officials determined the state's existing academic standards were sufficient. 

Read the letter from USDE to Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi. 

On Monday, OSDE officials received notification that the waiver will be reinstated for the 2014-15 school year.

“On behalf of Oklahoma educators, parents, students, lawmakers and all Oklahomans invested in better schools, we are grateful for this decision to reinstate the state's flexibility waiver,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi. “The ramifications of losing the waiver would have been significant and with potentially disastrous consequences. Instead, Oklahoma now has an opportunity to build upon the innovations and successful reforms of recent years.”

The OSDE says it requested immediate reinstatement of the waiver after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education concluded October 16 that existing Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, standards for English and math are college- and career-ready.

In addition to that development, the department pointed to significant progress made under its school improvement program, with 51 out of 175 Priority schools improving their letter grade this school year, and more than 100 Targeted Intervention schools raising their grade. Priority and Targeted Intervention schools are schools that need the most intensive help in raising student achievement.

In a letter released Monday, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle praised Oklahoma for education reforms made in an effort to strengthen rigor and improve academic performance.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students,” Delisle wrote.

As state leaders look ahead to the spring of 2015 and the likelihood of requesting another NCLB Flexibility Waiver, Superintendent Barresi said it is critical that Oklahoma remains committed to reforms that will spur academic achievement.

“While the USDE decision certainly allows districts and schools to breathe a little easier, this reinstatement cannot be misinterpreted as a concession to low expectations,” said Barresi. “Oklahoma should forge ahead with creating stronger academic standards and shoring up a system of true accountability.”