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The waiver offers a shift away from benchmarks that were too rigid and punitive by offering flexibility, school leaders say.
“It will be nice to lift the black cloud hovering above our heads,” said Hawkins Middle School Principal Mike Shelton, whose school has demonstrated problems in math among special education students.
The Hendersonville school was placed under “corrective action” status in 2010 – a first for the district – for not satisfying AYP requirements for math among special education students in 2006 and 2007.
Hawkins earned the “improving” status in 2008, but fell short in 2009 and 2010.
To overcome the rating, the school made a second math and English class a requirement for special education students, and teachers held a math camp after school until funding ran out. Teachers implemented a buddy system, pairing struggling students with faculty as a way to give more individualized attention.
Those efforts helped Hawkins earn the “improving” status in 2011 and Shelton predicted it would have bumped his school back to good standing for 2012.
“We’ll have to wait and see how the waiver will affect that, but it’s a relief not to have that pressure anymore,” Shelton said.
While NCLB has been problematic for school districts, it is credited with bringing to light achievement gaps in which racial minority, low-income, disabled, and non-native English speaking students have been the most left behind, said Director of School Del Phillips.
“Before it came along, I don’t think states looked at data for student subgroups as thoroughly as we do now. Now that’s common practice,” he said. “I think good school systems (included in the waiver) will continue to look at those (at-risk) groups with the goal of closing those gaps.”
Besides Tennessee, the other states granted a waiver are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oklahoma.
Tennessee’s approved waiver can be found at the Tennessee Department of Education’s website, www.tn.gov/education.