LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Education Department is exploring applying for another waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law because of difficulty in meeting the terms of its current waiver.
Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said Monday that renewing the present waiver would require almost all students to achieve grade level in math and literacy by the end of the year. It also would require the state to have highly effective teachers in all classrooms.
"We struggle in understanding how we can give assurances that we can move teachers from one area of the state to another, and how we can get every teacher in every classroom to a certain level of effectiveness to meet that," Kimbrell told members of the state Education Board at its regular meeting.
If the department opts to not extend its current waiver, workers would have to go through the time-consuming process of developing an application for a new one.
Kimbrell said that without a waiver, the state would be subject to requirements of No Child Left Behind and most Arkansas public schools would have to devote part of their federal aid to pay for tutoring.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that when the state was granted the waiver two years ago, Arkansas was allowed to create a system that customized student achievement goals to particular schools. Schools were given more time to meet the achievement requirements.
Board member Vicki Saviers of Little Rock questioned when the districts were going to be held liable for the low performances of their schools.
"There is no option for their students," she said. "They are on a pathway to failure."
She said she was distressed that the achievement rates at some schools declined despite the fact that "we have been on the ground" in these schools. "Someone needs to help me feel better about how it's going."
The state has until Dec. 15 to notify the U.S. Education Department that it intends to seek a new waiver. Kimbrell said his office has been talking with the federal agency about the requirements for a new waiver.