When a handful of states revolted against the No Child Left Behind education program last year, Idaho was helping lead the charge. So why is the state now among those last in line for a federal waiver to get out from under the law's toughest requirements?
State education officials, who applied for a waiver in February, contend the new five-star rating system they've proposed as an alternative to No Child Left Behind is unique and relies on more student data than plans proposed in other states that have already won waiver approval.
They've also been working with the federal government since April to address concerns about Idaho's new accountability plan.
The U.S. Department of Education responded to Idaho's waiver application this spring, saying it was robust in teacher and administrator training opportunities while other areas needed more work. Among the agency's concerns: Idaho's plan didn't put enough emphasis on graduation ratesand could potentially mask lower-performing students.
Idaho has since tweaked the system to place greater weight on graduation rates and require school districts to adopt plans to help minority and economically disadvantaged students found significantly lagging behind their peers, said deputy superintendent Nick Smith.
The state is also working to assure federal officials that Idaho's new system doesn't mask lower-performing students and that schools with significant achievement gaps wouldn't be able to land a five-star or four-star rating. Minority and economically disadvantaged student data will be reported individually, just as it was under No Child Left Behind, Smith said.
"All the data for those sub-groups will be reported publicly, we're not masking them. It was always our intent," Smith said.