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State gets its NCLB waiver

Colorado was among 10 states receiving waivers from No Child Left Behind Thursday.

Education Commissioner Robert Hammond gave the news to the State Board of Education at the start of its meeting. “We believe this really strengthens our reform system,” Hammond told the board, which greeted the news with applause.

The other states are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the U.S. Department of Education (see news release).

State department officials applied for the waiver from some No Child Left Behind rules in November after getting the go-ahead on Sept. 14 from the SBE.

The key element of the waiver allows the state and school districts to use only the state system of accrediting and rating schools and districts. Districts currently are rated using both that system and the NCLB system, known as Adequate Yearly Progress. The change will go into effect for school districts in the 2012-13 school year.

The state system relies significantly on student academic growth over time and has the goal of all students being proficient by 10th grade and college and workforce ready by high school graduation. Schools on the two lowest levels of accreditation have five years to improve their performance.

The system has been in operation for two years, and CDE officials are working with the lowest-rated districts to help their improvement efforts. (Search 2011 district and school ratings here, and get additional details in this article.)

The NCLB system rates the average yearly progress of schools, focusing on annual test scores, and has the goal of all students being proficient by 2014. Only a quarter of Colorado districts made AYP last year (see story).

The Colorado application also included a request for more flexibility in using federal funds to help a broader range of struggling schools and more flexibility to use federal money for programs to improve educator effectiveness.

The U.S. Department of Education last summer announced a process through which states could seek waivers. Many state have gotten restive about NCLB requirements and about Congress’ failure to update the law.

Colorado also asked for some additional flexibility in use of federal Title I funds to help a broader number of struggling schools. Associate Commissioner Keith Owen said the state didn’t get the full flexibility it sought. He also said the normal flow of Title I funds to districts – and the requirements attached to that money – isn’t changed by the waiver.

Get more details on Colorado’s waiver bid in this EdNews story, including links to application documents.

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