CA won’t be ready to apply for NCLB waivers by November deadline

Capitol sources said Tuesday there is almost no chance that California will be ready to apply for federal No Child Left Behind waivers by the first deadline of Nov. 14.

While other states might be better positioned to take advantage of the offer made last week by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan - officials at the California Department of Education, the California State Board of Education and the governor's office are engaged in an evaluation of the proposal where they are likely to remain for some time.

An initial analysis, insiders said, suggests that new legislation will almost certainly be needed to carry out all of the conditions that the waivers call for. No details were released about what new law will be needed, but sources indicated that there is a wide reference on each of the major requirements, including new teacher and principal evaluations tied to student test scores and new accountability programs for low-performing schools.

One issue that appears to have been settled, however, is that the entity that will make the final decision will be the state board, sources from both the Brown administration and from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson's office confirmed Tuesday.

The reaction among district officials has been largely enthusiastic to the waiver proposal, but state officials in Sacramento - both at the CDE and within the Brown administration - are taking a much more cautious view. Torlakson said last week that the plan could cost the state billions" to fully implement and indeed, there is a sense that that estimate is not overstated.

Part of the problem is gaining a better understanding of the waiver plan from the U.S. Department of Education. As is often the case with sweeping program reform, there are perhaps hundreds of key elements that require further refinement and clarification before a real understanding of the program can be made.

This week, a team from the CDE was scheduled to go to Washington to meet with federal counterparts to get more detailed analysis.