Tennessee latest state to seek NCLB waiver

The list of states seeking relief under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act continues to grow. On Friday, Tennessee’s governor and education commission jointly announced the state will apply for a federal waiver from NCLB accountability standards for Tennessee schools. Instead, they want Tennessee schools to be held to the state’s Race to the Top goals, which would be easier to achieve than the rising NCLB standards.

In a conference call last week, Gov. Bill Haslam proclaimed the federal government should trust states to do what is in their best interest and said NCLB has outlived its usefulness and needs to be overhauled. Haslem said, “We need to get away from punitive mandates, particularly for schools and districts that are really making progress, as most of our schools are.”

He added, “Applying for a waiver is not about making excuses in Tennessee. It’s just the opposite. We’re making significant progress in education. And since we lead the U.S. in the amount of data we collect… that we’re capable of using what we’ve learned from No Child Left Behind to measure ourselves in a rigorous way.”

Approximately half of the state’s 1,664 schools failed to show adequate yearly progress last year, and nearly 300 schools are now on the high priority list, meaning they have failed to show progress two years in a row under NCLB.

Kentucky announced in June it is seeking a waiver under NCLB benchmarks. Kansas also sought relief earlier this year, but its application was denied by the U.S. Department of Education in May. Leaders in Idaho and South Dakota have indicated they intend to ignore the law altogether.

Audio from the conference call by Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman can be accessed at http://news.tn.gov/node/7552.