Rayfield: Waivers for ‘No Child Left Behind’ are a good idea

Published 4:38 pm Saturday, August 20, 2011

Next month, state education officials plan to apply for a waiver that would allow Georgia relief from certain requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. It is a move that Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent of the Decatur County Schools, feels is necessary.

“I don’t have any problem with the accountability requirements of the law,” he said. “I just question how we are realistically going to get 100 percent of our students to 100 percent proficiency, and how we’ll be able to graduate 100 percent of our students.”

The goal of the No Child Left Behind law, which was signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush, is for all U.S. public school students to test at their grade level in both math and science by the year 2014. It also calls for 100 percent of U.S. high school students to graduate, by 2014. It is a goal that is considered admirable, but also unrealistic.

“This law has helped us focus on student achievement and performance, and it has been valuable in that respect,” Rayfield said. “It’s the almost impossible criteria, that have given us the feeling that we need waivers, or revision, or change to certain parts of the No Child Left Behind package.”

Rayfield said he has heard from representatives in Atlanta that a request for relief is imminent, but he is not sure of the specifics of that request. It may include adding additional measurements to gauge students’ success, such as ACT/SAT scores, passing rates in dual enrollment programs, or passing rates in technical classes such as automotive skills.

Under the No Child Left Behind law, schools are required to meet certain benchmarks each year, in order to show “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). The Decatur County Schools failed to make AYP in the 2010-11 school year — the five elementary schools made their AYP goals, but Hutto Middle School, Bainbridge Middle School and Bainbridge High School did not.

The AYP benchmarks become more demanding each successive school year, with the ultimate goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014. U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that as many as 82 percent of all schools in the nation could fail to make AYP in the 2011-12 school year.

“One thing that I would like to see in our waiver request would be to have more of a growth model,” Rayfield said. “Sometimes you fall short of the No Child Left Behind benchmark, but you still improve in an area, and I’d like to see systems rewarded for that success.”