Kansas at high risk of losing No Child Left Behind Act waiver

Kansas was one of three states put on notice Thursday that it is at “high risk” of losing its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.

U.S. Department of Education officials have determined that Kansas has not taken enough steps to install an evaluation system for teachers and principals that makes student performance data a significant factor in how educators are judged.

Kansas is moving forward with its pilot plan to have an evaluation system fully prepared for the 2014-15 school year, which would meet the federal department’s expectations, Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander said in a statement.

If Kansas does not meet a timeline to put the system in place during this school year, the state could lose its privilege to implement its own U.S.-approved accountability plan for schools. The state would then fall back under the scrutiny of the federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

That law, which has been due for revisions for six years, was marked by its rising benchmarks in the percentage of students who had to be performing at proficient or advanced levels in math and language arts to avoid sanctions.

As of 2014, the benchmarks reach the standard of 100 percent, meaning all students in all ethnic, socioeconomic and special-education subgroups would have to be proficient.

While Congress continues to struggle to revise the law, the U.S. Department of Education gave states the option to propose their own accountability plans — subject to federal approval — and earn waivers from the federal law. Both Kansas and Missouri obtained waivers.

Oregon and Washington, along with Kansas, were put on high-risk notice for issues in their teacher and principal evaluation systems.

The notice to Kansas recognized that the state has set up an evaluation and support system and that it has taken steps to pilot it. But the pilot has not been thorough enough to demonstrate it is effective, the notice said.

Kansas has 30 days to submit a more detailed plan and then will be monitored by the U.S. Department of Education throughout the school year.

It must have a plan with final guidelines for evaluations by May 1, 2014, to continue its waiver beyond the 2013-14 school year.

Kansas has proceeded cautiously, Neuenswander said, but will be ready for 2014-15.

“The delay in using the data to inform personnel decisions is to ensure that data is completely analyzed and accurate before it is used in this manner,” he said.

“Kansas is committed to have an evaluation system that helps educators become better at their profession, and tying student performance data to this process requires a great deal of time, effort, and insurance of quality.”