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No Child changes could be positive for Iowa City schools

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City school district officials said a plan that would leave No Child Left Behind up to the states might help local students.

Following President Obama's Sept. 23 announcement of a new plan allowing states to apply for waivers opting out of No Child Left Behind, Iowa City schools may be able to avoid being labeled "failures" under the program.

Iowa is expected to apply for the waiver. However, the Iowa Department of Education has yet to determine any specifics , state officials said.

"There are different parts to the application. We have to look at what assessments will be put in place. How are we going to measure student growth? It's a comprehensive waiver," said Kevin Fangman, a deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education. "We have to make sure that we address everything in the waiver and do what we're supposed to."

 

Fangman, along with Wilma Gajde — Title 1 consultant for the Department of Education — will attend federal Education Department meetings in Washington, D.C., on Thursday and Friday to learn more about the specifics of the application process.

Steve Murley, the Iowa City School District superintendent, said the waiver will benefit Iowa City schools — all of which will be considered failures by 2014 if Iowa does not applied to waive No Child.

"A waiver would allow us the opportunity to get out from underneath rules and regulations that clearly should have been re-examined," Murley said.

Under No Child, a school that does not have every student performing at grade-level proficiencies is deemed a "failure."

However, David Griffith, the director of Public Policy, with Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, said the waiver option is not free of drawbacks.

"There are strings attached," he said. "The waivers are only going to be two and a half years in length. There's some question about what happens at that point. There has been some talk of states being able to extending those deadlines. The hope is that during that time frame Congress would be able to reauthorize the law."

The waiver has bipartisan support in Iowa.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said she has never been a supporter of No Child.

"They want every child to be reading at grade level," she said. "That's unrealistic. We want students to be successful, but setting a guideline like that is not the way to get there."

Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, recognized that changes need to be made, but said he does not think No Child is still effective.

"I'm certainly supportive of that move [for Iowa to apply for a No Child waiver], but I'm certainly aware of President Bush's concern of student achievement," Johnson said. "I know some school districts are failing miserably. I've always believed that Iowa is the best place without interference from the federal government."


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