Update: Oklahoma’s waiver for ‘No Child Left Behind’ to be reinstated

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UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce that it is reinstating Oklahoma’s waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.

In August, Oklahoma lost that waiver after failing to implement Common Core Standards.

Oklahoma’s application for a waiver was denied because leaders did not have state standards that were career or college-ready.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education asked for reinstatement of the waiver in October and received word on Monday that it will be reinstated for the current school year.

OKLAHOMA CITY - In 2001, George W. Bush re-authored "No Child Left Behind," which was an extension of a 1965 reform law.

It was a bi-partisan effort applauded as a giant step forward for education in America.

Beginning in 2002, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements became more and more challenging each year.

In 2013, the requirement was to not leave one student behind.

Every student had to be reading and completing math on grade level in order to fulfill the federal guideline and not face sanctions.

Education experts estimate 90 percent of Oklahoma schools do not meet that standard.

Oklahoma has about 1,700 schools but officials believe about 1,600 of them are expected to be labeled " in need of improvement" under NCLB.

"It is shocking. We anticipate around 90 percent of the schools in the state will be considered failing schools under the No Child Left Behind expectation for 2014," said Oklahoma State Assistant Superintendent Kerri White. "This is a really big change to how Oklahoma education has been run for the past three years."

States apply for a waiver from the strict federal requirements in order to get flexibility in the way they spend federal dollars.

States that have adopted Common Core Standards have been approved for that waiver.

This year, 46 states applied for the waiver, most are approved.

Several states are still waiting to hear if their waiver will be accepted.

Oklahoma and Washington were denied the waiver after those two states repealed or failed to fully implement Common Core Standards.

Click here to read the rejection letter from the Dept. of Education

Indiana also repealed Common Core, like Oklahoma.

However, their waiver was approved because state officials had previously developed career and college-ready standards as rigorous as Common Core.

There are just three states operating on the NCLB requirements, including Vermont, North Dakota and California.

However, there are some districts within California that have been granted a waiver.

Nebraska rejected Common Core but they don't take any federal funding for education, so they do not need a waiver.

In Oklahoma, parents at 90 percent of our schools can expect to get a letter in the next few months, notifying them that their child's school is considered failing under the NCLB assessment formula.

Those failing schools will lose control of some federal dollars, which will likely be between $20 and $30 million.

Those schools may see a reduction in staffing and a re-purposing for how those federal dollars are used.

In rare and very serious cases, schools that have been on the NCLB "school improvement" list for multiple years could be shut down.

"Those schools can even be required to re-start under a different management system. They can be forced to become charter schools or to completely shut down," said White. "There's even an option that those schools can be taken over by the state board of education."

The same Oklahoma statute that repealed Common Core Standards, and put the NCLB waiver in danger, also required our state to write new ones.

By law, the new standards aren't expected to be complete for another two years, potentially leaving Oklahoma waiverless for the next two years.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is looking into the possibility of suing the federal government because of why the education secretary denied the waiver.

"We have been in overdrive, trying to assess this and have done a lot of work on it," said Pruitt.

In the rejection letter to Oklahoma, the U.S. Secretary of Education indicated Oklahoma's state standards had not been approved as college and career ready.

The State Board of Regents is in the process of determining whether the standards are college and career ready, but they have not completed the process.

"The Secretary of Education only has the authority given to it by Congress. So, to condition a waiver to a state based on standards that Congress has not blessed is a problem," said Pruitt. "I think everyone agrees it's a bad thing that the waiver has been denied. I think everyone agrees with that. So fundamentally, what we have to find out is if that denial is legal."

Pruitt expects to make a decision on NCLB in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Education is expecting to add 10 percent more staff to keep up with the work of policing two sets of standards, the state's A-F grading system and the federal NCLB assessment system.

"We are now going to be functioning as more of a compliance office, instead of a support system for Oklahoma schools," White said.

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