“With those kind of students come high needs,” Starkey said. “We’d lose a ton of flexibility in working with them.”
Almost every school in Indiana receives Title I money; schools that get the most would feel the waiver’s loss the deepest. Many use Title I funds to hire teachers to give extra help to struggling students. Some, like Goshen, use the money for pre-kindergarten programs for low-income students.
Even schools with few low-income students are wary of losing the waiver. That’s because nearly every school in Indiana would likely be labeled as “failing” if switched back to the No Child Left Behind rules.
The law mandates that every child — including students with developmental disabilities and those who don’t speak English as their native language — be reading and doing math at grade level by this school year. The waiver exempted the state from meeting that 100 percent proficiency goal.
Its loss would hit Zionsville Community Schools, for example, which has the lowest student poverty rate in the state and some of the highest math and reading proficiency scores. The district’s schools have earned an “A” rating under the state’s grading system.
“There would be a near-universal failure rate,” Zionsville finance chief Mike Shafer said. “One day, you’d have an A school. The next, it would be labeled ‘failing.’ How do you think parents would feel about that?”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @MaureenHayden.