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Key Points on NCLB Waivers


CTA is still reviewing all details of the NCLB waiver approved for eight California school districts submitted by the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) by the US Department of Education. In the meantime, please review the media statement from CTA President Dean Vogel, and below you'll find background information and key points on the issue.

Read DOE Release 

Read Education Week story 

Background: The US Dept. of Education on Aug. 6 approved a one-year waiver from No Child Left Behind to eight school districts in CORE. The California Office to Reform Education is a consulting firm that developed a coalition waiver proposal with the superintendents of these school districts: Fresno, Oakland, Sanger, Sacramento, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Educators were left out of the development of the waiver and were not included in the discussion. Not one local union in those districts signed the waiver application. All of them were opposed. The waiver sets up the School Quality Improvement System to replace NCLB in these districts.


 The US Dept. of Education’s approval of the NCLB waiver to a select eight school districts in California undermines the real work that needs to be done to help students and advance education change. It’s absurd and disappointing that educators – those who are closest to the classroom and students – were once again excluded from the process and once again mandates are being handed down and imposed on teachers and students.  

 It shows how Secretary Duncan’s rhetoric about the importance of educators being actively involved in education change is just that, rhetoric. Not one local teachers’ association in the eight school districts was included in the waiver discussions or signed the application submitted by CORE. Teachers want to and must be part of the conversation. All research shows that the only way to go about successful whole-system school reform is to include those who are working with our students every day.  

 As reflected in the work of education researchers Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves, any effort to foster whole system reform and promote the development of “professional capital” in rebuilding and transforming the public education system in California must involve and is the responsibility of the entire school community. This must include educators and their representatives, as well as other stakeholders, in meaningful decision making roles throughout that process, including its design, development and ultimate execution, not as an afterthought.

 The federal waiver undermines the collaborative work that is happening in many of the districts that are part of CORE. In many of these districts, educators and administrators were working together to develop evaluation systems that inform instruction and promote good teaching. It appears that collaborative work will now be dismissed or over-ridden by a new evaluation system set by the CORE waiver as the waiver attempts to undermine collective bargaining.  

 The CORE waiver is wasteful and distracts from the work already in progress by local educators across the state to implement the Local Control Funding Formula. The plan includes no new funds, yet has requirements which will cost precious dollars that are needed for the classroom. California’s Local Control Funding Formula will provide greater transparency and allow a local school district to better craft solutions to address local needs and involve teachers, parents, students, and other community members in the process.  

 The CORE waiver sets up a new bureaucratic system to oversee these districts and creates a new accountability system for schools and students in these districts. Districts participating in the “School Quality Improvement System” must commit to many mandates and restrictions around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, assessments, and teacher evaluation. Some of these restrictions undermine collective bargaining.  


 Districts participating in the “School Quality Improvement System” must commit to fully implement the Common Core State Standards in the 2013-14 school year and transition to Common Core-aligned assessments by the 2014-15 school year.

 The districts will develop consortium-wide guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems in August 2013 and all districts will adopt these guidelines by December 1, 2013.  

 CORE has no value-added benefit for California’s education reform priorities. Although the waiver may take some pressure off of schools that are at risk being labeled as failures, the flexibility in the waiver is limited and superficial. The plan offers no relief from the over-use of testing, and, in fact, requires testing in grades and subjects in which assessments are not currently required under ESEA. The plan provides no relief from the inaccurate use of test scores to evaluate teachers and administrators. One system of labels for schools is swapped for another system of labels.  

 CTA and all California educators have profound criticisms of the current ESEA/NCLB regime and its corrosive effects on public education. We believe NCLB has served to fracture a public education system stressed by years of disinvestment and neglect. As educators and advocates we are committed to improving the conditions of teaching and learning, advancing the cause of free, universal and quality public education and ensuring that the dignity and civil rights of all children are protected. We believe that the CORE proposal undermines and weakens a comprehensive and coherent approach to improving our public system. 

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association