By Christina Hoag, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Nine California school districts on Thursday filed a joint application for a waiver of stringent federal school standards, instead proposing an alternative method to measure performance.
The superintendents of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento City, Santa Ana, Sanger and Clovis unified districts said they are seeking their own waiver from No Child Left Behind standards after the U.S. Department of Education rejected a waiver application by the state of California last year.
Under federal law, districts are allowed to file their own applications although they are generally filed by states. So far, 34 states and the District of Columbia have obtained waivers, some 10 other requests are pending.
If the superintendents’ application is approved, the districts would regain $110 million in federal funding that has been redirected to other uses because they are not meeting federal benchmarks for student progress, which are based on standardized test scores. Combined, the districts educate about 1 million students.
The superintendents said that they want to create a fairer, broader measure of school success that does not rely so heavily on test scores that have led to many schools being classified as failing, especially those with large numbers of low income students and English learners.
“We’re not trying to escape accountability,” said Richard Carranza, superintendent of San Francisco Unified.
Their proposal would create three tiers of schools: schools of distinction, priority schools and focus schools. Teachers from schools of distinction would mentor their peers in priority and focus schools that have similar student populations.
Other measures would also be used including parent and student satisfaction as measured by surveys, suspensions, expulsions, absenteeism, graduation rates, English learners’ language proficiency rates, and how special education students are identified.
The superintendents will first submit the application to the state Board of Education for review. The proposal and board comments will then be forwarded to federal education officials, who will submit it for peer review. A final decision is expected in May or June, which would allow the new system to go into effect in the next school year.
The superintendents said that any school district or charter organization is welcome to join their application.