Rather than applying for and accepting a waiver from some of the more onerous provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in exchange for adopting a series of education reforms as 33 other states have done, Texas submitted a notice of intent to apply for a waiver via a different mechanism on the last day of the most recent application period, Sept. 13, 2012.

Texas’ request will not be for the same type of waiver with strings attached that other states have received, but rather a waiver under the general waiver authority given the U.S. secretary of education in the NCLB Act. Texas' waiver request, to be formally submitted in October 2012, will include exemption from federal Adequate Yearly Progress and highly qualified teacher requirements. 

Why Texas will apply for a waiver

Texas has been under intense pressure from school district leaders and others to apply for a waiver, especially since it was announced on Aug. 8, 2012, that the number of Texas campuses that failed to meet AYP in 2012 doubled from the number that failed in 2011, to more than 4,000 campuses.

Under the NCLB Act (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - ESEA), states were required to set continually rising AYP standards each year, so in 2012, Texas campuses had to meet a standard that was roughly equivalent to “Recognized” under the state accountability system. Because most Texas campuses couldn't reach that standard, they now face a continuum of sanctions ranging from giving children at those campuses the choice to transfer to other campuses to required reconstitution of the campuses.

Without a waiver from the NCLB, states must show that 100 percent of their students are proficient in English and math assessments by 2014. Waivers have been granted to 33 states under the Obama administration's specific waiver program, and several other requests are still being evaluated.

Why Texas chose a different waiver route

The strings attached to the administration's NCLB waiver program were the same troubling requirements as those required in the administration's first education reform initiative, the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant program, and its subsequent iterations.

Among those requirements was one that said states and school districts must develop and implement teacher evaluation systems based in significant part on:

  • student growth on standardized tests for all students in tested subjects
  • rigorous alternative measures of student learning and performance that are comparable across schools for students in non-tested subjects

This requirement was a major factor in TCTA's decision to support Gov. Rick Perry in declining to pursue RTTT funds early in 2010. Perry's chief objection to the RTTT grant was its requirement that a state adopt either college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states, or standards that are approved by a state network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.

Given this requirement to adopt a test-based teacher evaluation system, Texas’ chosen waiver route appears to be a better choice for Texas educators than if the state pursued a waiver under the administration’s waiver program. However, it is uncertain how Texas' waiver request and its subsequent disposition will be handled by the U.S. secretary of education.

Texas’ waiver seeks relief from “highly qualified” requirements

Probably of most interest to teachers is that, according to the state’s notice of intent, Texas' waiver request will include a request for exemption from the NCLB Act's highly qualified teacher requirements. Under those requirements, teachers of core academic subjects have had to show that they not only are certified, but can demonstrate competency in the subjects taught.

For some teachers, passing the applicable certification tests has not been enough to meet the requirements for demonstrating competency in the subjects taught, thus forcing those teachers to pass additional certification tests, or, if they are “experienced teachers,” to complete a process known as a High Objective Uniform Standard of Evaluation (HOUSE).

However, aside from the issue of older Texas certification exams not being sufficient to demonstrate competency in the subject taught under NCLB, Texas certification requirements generally exceed the NCLB Act's highly qualified requirements in that candidates for Texas teacher certification must complete an approved educator preparation program, which is not required under the NCLB Act.

Input on the NCLB waiver application

The public may submit comments on Texas' waiver application through 5 p.m. CST, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, via email to nclb@tea.state.tx.us.

TCTA has actively advocated for the best interests of teachers in response to each of the administration's education reform initiatives, including this latest round of NCLB Act waivers for states and school districts, and we will continue to do so on behalf of our members.

The Future of the NCLB Act/ESEA

As of September 2012, the NCLB Act awaits reauthorization by Congress. See the latest news on NCLB.