No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver


Q: Why are you proposing an accountability system in addition to the Waiver?
A: The Waiver application requires each state to describe its plans for a robust and meaningful accountability system. We believe that it is important to be clear about the role an accountability system plays. The goal is not about labeling a school as good or bad. Its value is in helping all schools, wherever they are, to improve. The system should be about generating valuable information that can be used to make improvements. Similarly, we never label schools as "failing," as it's a stigmatizing moniker that's insufficient in providing a balanced picture about a school's performance.
Q. Why not just go for the waiver request now and improve the accountability system later?
A: We need an integrated and meaningful federal and state accountability system that complement one another. This is our state's opportunity to take our time, involve a wide variety of people and get it right as we simultaneously construct a new way of teaching, assessing, and honoring students' unique talents, interests, and abilities.
Q: Why hold the proficiency targets flat for a year? How does that help?
A: It does two things: it will reduce the number of new schools that will be labeled "not making progress." And, because of that, fewer schools will be forced to undertake improvement plans that are not necessarily warranted, or appropriate.
Q: What's unfair and unrealistic about the No Child Left Behind system?
A: The basic concept of NCLB is good: all students should make progress, not just some. It is imperative that schools find a way to support all students in learning the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in college, careers, and civic life by delivering a broad yet personalized curriculum. Unfortunately, the accountability measures in No Child Left Behind have forced teachers and schools to focus on "teaching to the test," at the expense of other content areas and skill sets. In addition, the system places far too much emphasis on a single statewide summative assessment. While standardized testing should play a role in measuring progress by students, teachers, schools and states, it is only one measure. Furthermore, No Child Left Behind measures this year's students in a grade against last year's students in the same grade. But they are not the same kids. There is national consensus now that what is needed is to focus on student growth by examining a student's prior performance to determine whether they are improving enough to be considered ready for college and careers. That is, a student might be two years below reading level at the beginning of third grade, and only one year behind by the time he or she reaches fourth grade. While that student is still behind, he or she made two years' progress in one year. That should count in favor of the student's teacher and school, not against. It is a more useful assessment of how the school is doing and where improvements can be made.
Q: So what would be in West Virginia's new accountability and improvement system?
A: We are already making plans to convene educators and others to help develop the new system. A few elements seem likely:
  • Student achievement will be measured by a growth model, not by comparing this year's students with last year's students.
  • There will still be an expectation that schools must work to close gaps among groups of students, especially those most at risk, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.
  • High performing schools will be recognized, and lower-performing schools — by the new measures — will be identified, but not stigmatized, and plans will be put in place to help them improve. This is about helping to improve school success and student learning; we can only do that by working together. "Blame and shame" is not conducive to positive collaboration.
  • School districts will have more flexibility in developing improvement plans, rather than having set requirements that make sense in some places and not in others.
Q: So, are West Virginia schools really doing OK and No Child Left Behind just had it all wrong?
A: No. Like the rest of the country, far too few of West Virginia's students are proficient in reading, math, writing and science.
Q: How can I stay informed about, and even get involved in, developing a new accountability and improvement system?
A: You can learn more about the initiatives by reading the West Virginia Board of Education's Strategic Plan and by visiting