College of Education

About Us Admissions & Academics Research & Engagement Departments & Faculty Current Students

Katherine Ryan discusses No Child Left Behind Act waivers with UI News Bureau

by Sharita Forrest / Nov 2, 2011

Katherine RyanKatherine Ryan, a professor in Educational Psychology and expert on educational accountability issues and high stakes assessment, talked recently with News Bureau education editor Sharita Forrest about education reform in the U.S.

News Bureau editor’s note:  President Barack Obama recently announced that states will be allowed to seek waivers exempting their schools from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the controversial federal education law of 2001. According to some estimates, as many as 44 states, including Illinois, may apply, seeking relief from what some educators view as burdensome testing requirements that offer dubious measures of learning and accountability and a system that imposes stringent penalties on schools that fail to meet federal standards

State waivers – good idea or bad idea? Are they a way for schools to evade accountability?

The waiver is a good idea in principle because it focuses on students making progress over time, not just test results. What we’ve currently been working with – the NCLB mandate of 100 percent of all students meeting reading and math standards by 2014 – was never a realistic or reasonable theory of action. The Race to the Top initiative, which involves “turning around schools,” is an improvement, but it’s not as comprehensive as we would like.

There will still be an accountability component under the waiver, but it’s a progress-based model rather than a standards-based model. The path for this has been laid for the past five years, and federal funding was provided to explore this as an alternative to NCLB’s standards-based approach. So this is not a surprise.