Missouri signals preliminary intent to consider NCLB waiver

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has notified the U.S. Department of Education of its intent to apply for a flexibility waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act in exchange for the state’s more rigorous and comprehensive accountability system.

Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro told members of the State Board of Education this week she is “cautiously optimistic” that the state will be well-positioned to submit a viable plan by the February deadline.

“We are proceeding carefully,” Nicastro stated in a news release. “We want to be sure we are very knowledgeable of all the conditions of submitting such a waiver and whatever obligations that might create for our state before we go too far down this road.”

Department staff members are now conducting a detailed analysis of the requirements for the federal waiver and are comparing it side-by-side with the state’s accountability system.

“We do think that it would be highly desirable for school districts if we could use one system — our state accountability system — rather than trying to meet two different sets of standards. Having two different accountability systems has been very confusing, and we believe we have an opportunity to fix that,” she stated.

Nicastro outlined the staff development process and technical review that would be conducted prior to bringing a draft application to the State Board of Education and stakeholders for review in the coming months.

“We want to make sure superintendents, board members and others around the state have an opportunity to review the draft application and provide feedback before we decide whether to submit it,” Nicastro stated.

“We are not interested in lowering the stakes of accountability, but we want to make sure that if we are let out from under certain provisions of No Child Left Behind that we are not trading one faulty system for another,” she emphasized. “It is our hope it will work out, so we will go through this process to develop the application.”

States that do not successfully apply for a waiver remain under provisions of the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as No Child Left Behind, until such time as it is reauthorized by Congress.