Recently, Michigan's waiver for the No Child Left Behind Act was approved. Now, even though the state does the requirements set by the act, Michigan has promised several other changes to its education system. Despite the still difficult to achieve goals, Michigan's Superintendent, Mike Flanagan, is positive as he comments on the waiver: "This is a great news for our students and our schools, [this] will help us continue our efforts to get all kids career- and college- ready." The more freedom allowed to the state in how it decides to use federal dollars plays a big part in this positive attitude. This waiver would not have been necessary, however, if all the states in the U.S. were not under immense pressure to complete the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act..
When President Bush was in office, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed. NCLB required all schools in the country to reach certain proficiency levels by 2014. Also, each year it required states to test students in key subjects. After seeing the results, the schools that had not shown enough improvement were issued sanctions. Critics say that there are many problems in this plan. For example, they believe that this system focuses highly on only standardized tests. Also, it is difficult to compare the progress and achievement of one state with another because some states use different exams. Like all the other states, Michigan was also expected to reach unrealistic goals: all schools in the state reaching 100% proficiency by 2014. Since all the states felt that these goals were obviously unreachable in the given time frame, President Obama tried to make several amendments to the NCLB act. These amendments were not able to be successful, however, because Congress was never able to reach a decision on the amendments among themselves. Realizing that it would probably be a while before the success of these amendments, President Obama decided to sanction waivers for NCLB to the states that requested them. The state of Michigan decided to apply for a waiver.
The original waiver request by Michigan proposed several adjustments to the NCLB act's requirements. The most important of these was the goal that instead of 100% proficiency in the next two years, at least 85% students should reach proficiency by 2022. Also, Michigan proposed a "traffic light" system in their waiver plan. In this system, all the schools in Michigan will be labeled red, yellow, or green based on the performance of their students. Michigan's main focus would be on the gap between the top 30% and the bottom 30% students in each school. They want to further help the students who perform poorly so they are able to succeed in their education later on. To achieve this, the worst performing schools in Michigan will be watched by a new office to be formed called the School Reform Office. The acceptance of the waiver would confirm that Michigan would not be penalized for not meeting yearly goals. Also, the low performing schools in Michigan would not have to have 40% of their students in poverty to receive Title I funds. According to Flanagan, the approval of the waiver would really benefit the schools and the students in the state for a couple reasons. As stated before, Flanagan believes that the waiver will help Michigan "continue [its] efforts to get all kids ... college-ready." He also says that the flexibility and assistance Michigan is receiving through the waiver will result in "higher achievement levels for all students and a greater future for Michigan."
Michigan's waiver was approved based on four basic conditions set forth by the federal government. The first reason that the waiver was approved was that the expectations set by Michigan for all of its students would successfully prepare the students for their future in college and/or the several different career paths they may choose from. The second reason was the "traffic light" system. The federal government approved of it as a system that is well developed and appropriately supports all the schools that need it. Michigan also gained its approval by having a suitable plan for the correct evaluation and support of all the teachers and principals in Michigan schools. The last part of Michigan's waiver that convinced the federal government was Michigan's plan to re-evaluate its regulations on the schools so that the schools and the students in them are able to perform to the best of their abilities. The waiver requested by Michigan has been approved on these conditions, now all the state has to do is live up to its expectations and promises.