State plans to apply for waiver of requirements in No Child Left Behind law

The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to apply in February for a waiver of requirements under the No Child Left Behind law.

President Barack Obama opened the door for states to have more flexibility in complying with the law after Congress failed to approve a newer version of the measure.

The U.S. Department of Education said it would drop the requirement that all students must earn a proficient score on tests for reading and math by 2014.

Critics of the law said that was an impossible goal and that the law branded some schools as failures when they were really improving.

Instead, the federal agency said it would grant waivers to the requirement if states either imposed standards to better prepare students for college and careers, reduced the achievement gap between sets of students, extended the deadline to achieve 100 percent efficiency to the 2019-20 school year, or adopted incentives for high-performing schools and plans to help low-performing schools.

Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said it would take several months of work to get the state’s application for a waiver in shape.

Once the application is made, she said the federal education department would let Kansas know by the end of the current school year whether the waiver has been granted.

Education Board members said they would provide more direction on the waiver application at the board’s meeting in November. The board voted 8-1 to give staff the green light to start preparing the application. Board member Walt Chappell, a Republican from Wichita, voted against the plan.

Several board members said they would oppose applying for a waiver under the option of trying to achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2019-20. They said the 100 percent goal was one of the onerous requirements of NCLB and extending that period wouldn’t solve the problem.

“I don’t think extending the time out makes it any more possible,” said Sue Storm, a Democrat from Overland Park. “I think that’s kind of foolish thinking to think that that would work,” she said.

Several board members also criticized federal proposals seeking to link teacher pay to student achievement. Board chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita, said he feared that would result in teachers trying to get better students in their classes at the expense of other teachers.

“I don’t want to end up having teachers shopping for kids,” he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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