Because of recent Iowa legislation, the U.S. Department of Education cannot approve Iowa’s state application for a waiver from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass said.
The central stumbling block is a new statutory requirement, passed by the Iowa Legislature this past session, that any changes to the system of educator evaluation must be approved by the Legislature.
"This was a missed opportunity for Iowa’s schools to find relief from a law that holds them to unrealistic measures and then blames them for failure," Glass said. "We made it clear to the Legislature in committee meetings and in writing that the Iowa Department of Education needed statutory authority to move forward on implementing a waiver-compliant evaluation system. The Legislature did not follow through."
The Iowa Department of Education’s waiver proposal, submitted in February, reflects a bold accountability system that fits the state’s context and emphasizes student growth and progress in addition to proficiency on tests.
The proposal was well-received by the U.S. Department of Education, which commended the Iowa Department of Education for its work to develop "high-quality plans to transition to college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments, as well as to develop a differentiated recognition, accountability and support system that holds strong promise to improve student achievement."
Iowa Department of Education officials worked with U.S. Department of Education officials throughout the spring to answer questions and to make revisions that closely aligned Iowa’s waiver application to federal guidelines.
The Iowa Department of Education also indicated throughout the 2012 session of the Iowa Legislature that state education policies must be brought in line with the waiver proposal for Iowa’s application to be successful.
Specifically, Director Glass requested the statutory authority to develop frameworks for teacher and principal evaluations that differentiate performance using three levels and reflect multiple, valid measures, including data on student growth.
However, the Legislature’s final education package did not give the Iowa Department of Education the authority to develop and implement evaluation and support systems that meet the waiver requirements. Instead, Senate File 2284 directs a task force to study these issues and make recommendations for the 2013 legislative session.
The lack of authority was cited in a U.S. Department of Education letter on June 21 as the reason Iowa's waiver application cannot be approved.