Wyoming will not receive a federal waiver that would ease consequences for schools under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a Wyoming Department of Education email obtained by the Star-Tribune.

The email, dated April 23, stated issues from the state's past waiver applications could not be resolved in time to gain approval for a waiver for the next school year. It was sent by Jennifer Peterson, the department's director of Title I funds.

Peterson did not respond to a phone message and department officials declined to comment on the email. However, the Star-Tribune obtained a copy of a memo from Superintendent Cindy Hill on Monday evening that confirmed Wyoming will not receive a waiver.

The agency's former director also confirmed the state chose not to apply for such a waiver because Wyoming's accountability model would likely not have met federal guidelines and because the agency was undergoing a change in leadership. Wyoming applied for but did not receive a waiver in 2012. Last year, Wyoming received a partial waiver that froze ever-rising benchmarks at a prior year's level, said Richard Crandall, the department's former director.

The U.S. Department of Education began offering flexibility to states that developed their own accountability systems in 2011, when reaching No Child Left Behind's goal of every student testing at or above proficient by 2014 became increasingly unlikely for more and more states.

The first phase of Wyoming's state-run accountability system was piloted in schools this year. It will take effect this fall.

But it likely wasn't ready for the U.S. Department of Education standards, according to Crandall.

"We've got to finalize our model before we present it to the feds," he said Monday. "We can't say, 'It's a work in process.'"

When Crandall left the department in late April, he had recommended Gov. Matt Mead not apply for a waiver, he said. The state's school accountability model did not place enough emphasis on graduation rates and continuing technical education to meet federal requirements, and there was not enough time before the federal government's May 1 deadline to make the changes.

An inevitable transfer of power at the agency also discouraged Wyoming from applying for the waiver, Crandall said. In January, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in favor of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, who was temporarily ousted from the agency by a law in 2013. Crandall resigned and Hill returned to the agency in late April.

The transition would not have helped the state's case when asking for a waiver, Crandall said.

"Whenever a state is in transition, the feds automatically take a very cautious approach," he said.

Not having a flexibility waiver means most Wyoming schools will be labeled "failing" under federal accountability rules, which laid out proficiency targets set to rise every year until they reached 100 percent. This year, all students are expected to be reading and doing math at or above grade level. 

For the first year a school is labeled failing under No Child Left Behind, no severe consequences are enforced. In subsequent years, however, schools face tighter restrictions on how to spend federal Title I funds and may be asked to replace principals or staff. The state will also have to notify parents in low-performing schools that they have the right to transfer their children to stronger schools.

For as long as Wyoming doesn't have a waiver and No Child Left Behind is still the law of the land, Wyoming schools must comply with two different sets of accountability rules.

That creates a perception problem as well as practical problem for Wyoming, said Mark Mathern, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Natrona County School District. A school may be failing under the terms of No Child Left Behind but meeting expectations under the state's rules.

"It confuses the public," Mathern said. "What am I supposed to believe here? Is my school a good school or isn’t it?"

It also creates a challenge for districts facing potential consequences for high-performing schools labeled failing under No Child Left Behind. In that case, Mathern said, he would recommend focusing on the state's requirements.

No Child Left Behind had great intentions but in the end doesn't work, Mathern said. Lawmakers are several years overdue to rewrite the law behind No Child Left Behind but have not yet agreed on what to change.

It's unclear whether the Wyoming Department of Education will seek another type of waiver to freeze the rising proficiency targets to past years' levels, as Wyoming was granted last year. A U.S. Department of Education website stated Wyoming's waiver application was under review and linked to an application from last year.

Reach education reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or leah.todd@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

(19) comments

pappy
pappy

No Child left behind and it's ever increasing standards needs to be changed but we could have at least applied for an exemption except for the mess created by Mead, Coe and Teeters. Who knows what might have happened without SF104 but we can clearly see what happened because of it. I wonder if Mead will take responsibility for this.

The Dude Abides
The Dude Abides

And let the snowball effect begin...

The Dude Abides
The Dude Abides

Let's see, our science teachers aren't allowed to teach modern science standards, our dysfunctional state education department is in disarray, the legislature isn't following the constitution with regard to cost of living adjustments to schools, and now the state's schools are in danger of losing federal funding for not meeting NCLB standards. No worries, there are plenty of oil field and gas patch jobs to go around.

Morning Joe
Morning Joe

But you have to remember.... we don't like that guy in the White House, but we can't come out and say that. So, we have to say things like "we don't trust the government". Just like when the boys decided to nix the Medicaid Expansion claiming that the government would not fund it after a couple of years.

I can just imagine what will happen when that lady moves into the White House.

At least she won't blame GWB, and she won't call every attack on her as racist.

99Savage
99Savage

And so the noose of the federal government with its onerous bureaucracy tightens on anyone who would dare to not bow down and kiss the feet of their masters.

The Dude Abides
The Dude Abides

Fyi, according to figures compiled for all states by the Economist magazine, from 1990 to 2009 Wyoming paid in about $51.3 billion in federal taxes, and received about $70.4 billion in federal spending. That comes out to roughly $1.37 of federal spending in Wyoming for every $1 Wyoming pays in federal taxes. I guess that's why Wyoming conservatives "talk the talk" instead of "walking the walk." When you add that to the billions we extort from the extraction industries through excise taxes, you can start to get a picture of why our individual tax burdens are so low here; and no, it's not because of the Cowboy Code, our independent spirit, or our belief in small government, it's because we have our hands out.

99Savage
99Savage

Yep, and a major portion of that federal revenue is PILT. Do you know what PILT is and why it is paid? So you illustrate just how dependent the states are, not just Wyoming, on the federal teat. And you then go on to make the weak assertion that it is the conservative fault. Yes, the republicans are complicit but that still doesn't justify the federal overreach into state's affairs.

This is what happens when you have the federal government involved in education. Education and the establishment of standards and the means in which to measure them should be left up to the state. The only reason we even are involved is the money that the state and districts receive from the feds. We went from 19% federal funds in 1980 to almost 65% federal money in 2013. The people in Washington do not know the difference in a jackrabbit and a jackalope. How can they guide education? Simple, they can't.

Pogo
Pogo

As Governor, Taylor Haynes would stop this stuff. As it is, we are manipulated at every turn from the federal government. Centralized planning, the Common Core solution put forth by the Marxist-liberal left will not give up on these type of edicts and endeavors. When you hear bureaucratic terms like "compliance, mandates and penalties" not to mention "exemptions" in really it is the onerous regulations of the U.S. Dept. of Education. These are political schemes that could only be hatched in our Executive and Legislative branches of federal government. Our own Wyoming legislators (Al Simpson, Mike Enzi, etc.over time working closely with members of the other party) have been participants in tightening this noose. Follow the money. We in Wyioming have both of our hands out for all we can get from the feds and yet we pontificate that we are "conservative." How about the government mandate that dangles $4 billion in federal Race to the Top education grants for local schools under the condition of adherence to Common Core? Surely in Wyoming we have the ability end this stuff and return control of the classroom to teachers and local school boards. School boards by in large have abdicated their role and function as part of a go-along-get along syndrome perpetrated by local school administration. They need to be held accountable -- at present they are not.

Dewd
Dewd

Most of you seem to forget that No Child Left Behind was signed into law in January 2002 by Dubya Bush ( our brain trust prez) and was co-authored by Rep. John Boehner and Judd Gregg ( R-NH) .

Wyoming is failing its K-12 students, in spite of having the second highest per student spending on public schools in the nation...almost $ 15,000 per kid. Yet our proficiency tests put us way down the list of actually imparting education. In the face of that , we expressed our collective statewide ignorance by instaling Cindy Hill as state school chief simply because she had that little -R behind her name. Hill's obdurate incompetence has only made Wyoming's education system that much worse, and here we are, broke down on the side of the road and bickering over ideology instead of fixing the school systems.

It appears to me that the Wyoming Republican Party is going back to their old ways of hating public education and trying to monkeywrench public education at every pit stop. Remember, it took the Wyo Supreme Court to force them to deal with school funding after 30 years of refusing to do their state constitutional duty in providing each resident student in Wyoming an equal opportunity at K-12 public education. Looks like we are in a headlong rush back to those antediluvian days with NCLB, Common Core, and NGSS et ux.

Yet commenter Pogo seems to think a sitting Governor in the least populated state can override a huge federal education program. Well, that other Pogo said it succinctly: " We have met the enemy and he is us...". Do you honestly think Taylor Haynes could turn back the federal school propgram ? Yeah , right... dream on.

One more thing that's never brought up about NCLB. The Bushies had an itneresting provision inserted into it. Military recruiters have blanket access to each and every student's contact information , grades , and other school records. Hmmmm..........

99Savage
99Savage

".....and was co-authored by Rep. John Boehner and Judd Gregg ( R-NH) ."

Why did you omit the fact that Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and George Miller (D-CA) also co-authored NCLB? Oh, that's right! Liberals stock-in-trade is using half-truths. Are you a liberal?

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

Attn 99, you are correct!
It was in fact Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and George Miller of Cal that made a deal with GW Bush to start this program. As Kennedy proclaimed that if this President [meaning GW] is interested in helping Children, he will work with Kennedy on this.
This was in 2001 when GW still had the US Senate but not the House and still worked with extreme liberals to succeed at something liberals wanted. Today, Obama - Pelosi and Reid will work with non one but, proclaim "our way or the highway" when governing.

The rest is history.

Kat, you are 100 percent correct.

whatever
whatever

99, brilliant comment. obviously you never met a generalization or half truth you didn't like so what's your point? of course we all know that a conservative would never offer up anything but 100% truth, that no conservative would exaggerate or say, use numbers out of context.
good thing we have 99 to keep ridin' herd on those darn lyin' liberals, the root of all evil .

Abby1
Abby1

I think No Child Left Behind is a sure way to degrade schools and teachers. I'd like to see the federal government pass some of these tests especially if they have learning disabilities. The government cannot balance a budget and gives welfare benefits to those whose children don't perform or attend school regularly. Until parents are accountable for the performance at some level of their children's education 100% will NEVER happen. The government needs to get a clue and try to do the job of a teacher under current circumstances.

99Savage
99Savage

" Until parents are accountable for the performance at some level of their children's education..."

Abby!, I believe this is the crux of the problem. Too many parent(s) abrogate their responsibilities to the school which they regard as little more than a day-care center for their kids. The so-called underprivileged are entitled to free breakfast, lunch and other necessities courtesy of the taxpayer. We can't fill their minds until we fill their bellies first, right? I believe these programs, well intentioned as they are, have the unintended consequence of creating more irresponsibility.

"Demand more responsibility of someone and they will become more responsible. "
The antithesis of this is "Demand less responsibility of someone and they will become more irresponsible."

I believe if the taxpayer is to provide these necessary services to underprivileged children then we the taxpayer have the obligation to demand something in return from the parent(s). Anything less is undignified and self-defeating.

I would be interested in your thoughts and opinions on this.

just knows
just knows

The term "waiver" is very misleading. As I understand it the "waiver" has even more strings attached than race to the top or no child left behind. It is a good thing that Wyoming is out. What is Crandall talking for. Why is he even in the picture. He keeps muddying up things. I see that his push for Smarter Balance is not as advertised. Hey Pogo. You need to vet Taylor Haynes. He did not work to repeal SF104 and even in an interview supported it, but not just the way it came about. He also may not be as advertised. Look a little deeper.

Get rid of NCLB and get rid of the federal money. I has only caused problems. Let the state determine how our kids are educated and establish the standards. That is their job.

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