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Ohio’s Request for Federal Relief Approved

Release date: 5/29/2012

“This is a major step forward that will allow us to raise the bar for our schools so Ohio can remain competitive and ensure that our students have the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in life,” said State Superintendent Stan Heffner. “We are grateful for the many partners in Ohio’s public education community who have made this day possible.”

The approval means Ohio is no longer subject to many elements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, including the Adequate Yearly Progress requirement that many local teachers and school leaders described as completely unrealistic. Instead, Ohio will move to a rigorous new system of rating schools while maintaining aggressive goals to cut performance gaps between socio-economic groups.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the creativity and innovation shown by these states,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said during a news conference Tuesday. “The leadership we are seeing at the state level has been pretty remarkable.”

Ohio’s proposal includes:

  • Implementation of rigorous standards, assessments and principal and teacher evaluations;
  • Replacement of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measure, which had the unrealistic goal of 100 percent proficiency for reading and mathematics for every student in every demographic group. The new measures include rigorous, but realistic, objectives that aim to cut the achievement gap in reading and mathematics by half over six years, while requiring higher performance from all students;
  • Changing the existing rating of schools to an A-F letter-grade system that will be easier to understand and give a realistic picture of school performance. The system and formula will officially begin with the report cards released in August 2013;
  • Eliminating the troubled Supplemental Educational Services (SES) tutoring program for students in low-performing schools and returning those funds for schools to target services for struggling readers in grades K-3 as part of the state's "third grade guarantee” or other interventions outlined in school improvement plans;
  • Freeing schools from some reporting requirements and giving them greater flexibility in their use of federal funds for professional development and other purposes.

The waiver proposal calls for moving Ohio from the current rating system of Excellent with Distinction through Academic Emergency for districts and schools. Ohio’s waiver proposes a system of A-F letter grades derived from performance in three areas: student achievement, student growth and how much the achievement gaps among various student groups are closed.

Simulations of the proposal included in the waiver request using 2011 data show that about 5% of districts would earn an A; 44% would earn a B; 30% a C; 13% a D and 9% would receive an F. As the application spells out, this report card plan will be reviewed and modified over the next three months with a final proposal to be presented for legislative action by September 15, 2012. For now, proposed simulations were included to fulfill waiver requirements and are not final.

“While local report cards remain a subject of continuing discussion, the grading concept in the waiver is a rigorous and realistic way to view student and school performance when compared against the high standards essential to succeed in the 21st Century,” Heffner said.

During the Tuesday afternoon news conference, Ohio’s plan received praise from Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, at U.S. DOE.

Ohio “put forth a very strong plan for ensuring that they are not just adopting college and career ready standards but implementing them and translating standards into instruction,” Martin said. Ohio “set forth ambitious performance targets for all their schools. They’ve got a very strong district-level accountability system…They are also working to build capacity for school improvement at the state and district level, which is terrific. They are also looking to create more well-rounded education by looking at 21st Century skills. And they have a strong plan for implementing teacher and leader evaluation systems.”

Ohio’s approved ESEA Flexibility Request along with new simulations and additional materials may be viewed here.

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