Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 15, 2014

Schools fear sanctions if state loses waiver

INDIANAPOLIS – At West Goshen Elementary, the federal government’s decision two years ago to waive the escalating requirements of the No Child Left Behind law was good news.

The statewide waiver for Indiana schools gave officials in the high-poverty district the flexibility to use federal money to open a new preschool for the most at-risk students and hire reading instructors to work with a growing number of immigrant children whose parents don’t speak English. It freed up money to keep the school library open in the summer for literacy programs.

Those initiatives helped, administrators say. Student test scores rose and West Goshen pulled itself up from a near-failing grade under the state’s school-rating system.

Now, West Goshen officials worry their efforts are in peril.

In early May, the U.S. Department of Education released a report showing Indiana is at risk of losing its No Child Left Behind waiver because the state has failed to keep its promises for improving schools.

The waiver’s loss would mean local schools lose control of a portion of the $231 million in federal money they use to help students in poverty. Instead schools would have to set aside about $46 million for federally mandated programs that could mean cutting some teachers.

As alarming for school officials, losing the waiver would label almost every Indiana school as “failing” under the federal education law.

“I don’t think they’re fooling around,” said West Goshen Principal Alan Metcalfe. “Right now, we’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”

The U.S. Department of Education has given state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz until July 1 to show how the state will rectify its problems.

Indiana was one of 10 states to receive a waiver in 2012 from the landmark education law that compels schools to have 100 percent of students proficient in reading and math by this year.

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