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Texas May Lose Its Waiver To No Child Left Behind

Christina Ulsh
Students at Dubiski Career High School in Grand Prairie

The state got a waiver to some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind in 2013. That lets it keep federal money without meeting all the law’s requirements. Forty other states have waivers, too. Texas’ waiver expires at the end of this school year, and the Texas Education Agency wants an extension.

“If we lose our waiver, we’ll have to go back to issuing federal accountability ratings for all of our 8,000 schools, and the districts will be required to use federal money to provide transportation for students who want to move out of a struggling school district, or provide free tutoring,” said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for TEA.

At stake is about $1.2 billion from the federal government that Texas can currently allocate more freely. To keep the waiver, the federal government wants Texas to have a system to evaluate teachers and principals.

“Under our current state law, we don’t have the authority to impose one system on everyone,” Ratcliffe said. “We can create a system and make it available, but districts have the ability to create their own system and use that instead.”

Sandy Kress, one of the architects of the No Child Left Behind Law in 2001 under President George W. Bush, thinks the federal government is overreaching with this teacher and principal requirement.

“There is nothing in the law about teacher and principal evaluation. So they’re bribing us to do what they want in order to give us the relief we need,” Kress said.

Performance Evaluations For Teachers and Principals 

Getting lost in this federal-state dispute is how useful teacher and principal evaluations can be.

“An effective principal can get an extra two months of learning. An ineffective principal can lose learning,” said Eva Myrick Chiang, a program manager at the George W. Bush Institute who studies education reform and how principals affect schools.

“Because principals are so critical to a student’s success, we have to have a way to determine which principals are getting that success,” she said.

Consistent evaluations are the only way to know, she says.

Some school districts in Texas already rigorously evaluate teachers and principals, including Dallas and Houston. Though Texans generally value local control over school districts, the Texas Education Agency is working on a statewide system, and has piloted it in a few school districts.