Somerville’s public schools don't need to worry about penalties if not all students score proficient in math and reading on the 2014 MCAS test, according to an announcement from the state’s education department.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama gave Massachusetts and nine other states a waiver from meeting this primary requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Massachusetts received the waiver because it established what was deemed an acceptable alternative approach to dealing with student achievement.
What it means for Somerville
The waiver lifts the threat that the Somerville school district could be labeled as “failing." It also allows school officials more control of how they spend federal money, said Assistant Superintendent Vince McKay.
“It gives us a measure of flexibility and responsiveness that we think is very significant and will touch every aspect of our students’ education from the curriculum to educator evaluations to eventual replacement of MCAS to the way we’re held accountable,” he said.
McKay said that No Child Left Behind demanded that school districts meet “unattainable levels of performance.”
The Somerville Public Schools has not made what the federal government considered “adequate yearly progress” in reading or math since 2009, according to the district’s accountability data. Some 90 percent of Massachusetts’ school districts were also considered inadequate under the federal education act, according to the state’s education department.
In exchange for receiving the waiver, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had to submit a proposal that detailed how school districts would improve teaching and test scores.
The state’s goal for 2017 is to cut in half the disparity in proficiency between all students and those who are poor, are learning English or are receiving special education, according to a report from the education department.
“To be able to switch to a system that is focused on sub-group performance and growth,” McKay said, “is a much more sophisticated view of the progress of a school.”