No Child Left Behind gets left behind in Kentucky

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By Jesse Osbourne

Students, teachers and administrators in Washington County wave goodbye to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws, as Kentucky was recently one of 10 states to receive a waiver from the mandates.

“Kentucky’s public school system will have one comprehensive system of accountability for both state and federal purposes to ensure college/career readiness for all students,” according to a Kentucky Department of Education press release last week.
According to the release, last year “President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlined how states could get relief from provisions of NCLB in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready.”
Washington County Schools Superintendent Robin Cochran was pleased with the waiver.
“Overall, I believe the NCLB waiver is a relief for school districts,” she said. “We finally have certainty that the many plans and goals that we have been setting with ‘blind hope’ have come to a realization now. “
The KDE press release also said that “Senate Bill 1 required Kentucky to begin a new assessment and accountability system in the 2011-12 school year.”
That system is the Unbridled Learning: College/Career Readiness for All Accountability Model, and will serve as Kentucky’s accountability model for both state and federal purposes, according to the release.
  “We know that the work we have to do from this point forward is magnanimous; however, we now see a clear pathway to follow and know what is expected at the state and federal level,” Cochran said via email on Monday. “One testing system will be easier to comprehend for all stakeholders (the educational community, as well as the community at large).”
One system for accountability, instead of the two-tiered system under NCLB, just makes sense, Cochran said.
“(It) holds the target steady instead of moving it at different levels and receiving different results from different assessments,” she said.
Cochran likes the new system because it requires all students to perform.
“Subpopulations will not be excluded because of a lack of numbers – every student’s score will matter,” she said.
Yearly progress for each student will be included in the new accountability model, she said.
The scoring system for schools will change, as well.
“Each school and district will receive an overall score on a scale of 0 to 100, and each will be classified to determine recognition or support,” according to the KDE press release. “There are four main classifications: distinguished, proficient, progressing and needs improvement.
“The new model allows Washington County Schools to focus on the college and career readiness pathways for all students, and that is very exciting for our community,” Cochran said.
“The ultimate goal of the Unbridled Learning accountability model is to ensure that all students are prepared for college and/or career by the time they graduate from high school,” according to the KDE release.
Cochran added that students and parents should prepare for more rigor in the classroom.
“This model is requiring everyone to ramp up a few notches in rigor, and this is something that educators and community members must embrace,” she said.
With help from partnerships in the community, she has a positive outlook about the change.
“We will all need to work together and support each other because of the fast-paced changes,” she said. “I am certain Washington County is strong enough to do this and know that our community and college partners (SCC & ECTC) are dedicated and focused on helping us to succeed.”
Other states receiving the waiver were Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.