California Forum

Another View: Withdrawing from federal waiver best for students

It’s disappointing that former Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, who resigned in December, has chosen to characterize the Sacramento City Unified School District as “lacking empathy and courage” by declining to renew its federal No Child Left Behind waiver (“ City schools gave up much more than a federal waiver”; Viewpoints, April 20).

In fact, the opposite is true. Withdrawing from the waiver is a decision that was made with the best interests of our students at heart and one that will propel our district forward in a new era of collaboration and innovation.

As anyone who ever was a student can understand, the work of a school district is carried out in classrooms. The principals, teachers and staff at our 75 schools work hard to make each day a day of important learning for the 43,000 students we serve. We simply cannot accomplish all of our goals without the support and partnership of these men and women on the ground.

Without the waiver, we are moving forward with many of its laudable goals by working with parents, teachers and the community in an open and honest exchange.

Specifically, we are putting children first by:

•  Continuing to implement the Common Core State Standards, more demanding learning goals that require deeper levels of thinking, more writing and more problem-solving, and are aimed at better preparing students for college and careers.

•  Progressing with our Guide to Success, a robust accountability system that will allow us to evaluate schools holistically and not just on test scores, as prescribed in NCLB. This work parallels the state’s efforts to revamp its accountability system by reducing the focus on test scores.

• Working with our teachers on a plan that would create more collaborative time for teachers to share best practices and learn together on a regular basis.

• Designing a new teacher evaluation model to give teachers the support they need to be successful.

This decision is not an endorsement of NCLB. While we do lose some flexibility in using $4 million for additional learning resources, that money will still stay with our students at low-income schools. And, we are already looking into ways to use these resources more effectively to support students.

As Raymond said on many occasions, the waiver was never just about the money. It was about building a better system to keep our schools accountable for results for kids. While we have chosen not to continue the district’s participation in the waiver, that work will continue in collaboration with all stakeholders.