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Colorado gets easier path to extension of NCLB waiver

State Board of Education members cheered when they got the news, but a U.S. Department of Education policy shift on extension of NCLB waivers has raised some concerns elsewhere.

The DOE announced this week that it was streamlining the process for states that want to extend their waivers from some requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

Colorado was won of the first states to obtain such a waiver, and board members were happy when state Department of Education staff gave them the news on Thursday.

For Colorado, the major element of the waiver has been exemption from the feds’ Adequate Yearly Progress standard for schools. Instead the state is allowed to use its own system to rate schools and districts. The latest district ratings were released this week (see story), and school ratings will be issued in December.

But DOE’s announcement prompted worries in other quarters that the new, easier renewal process could reduce the pressure on states to ensure that poor and minority students have effective teachers. (EdWeek’s Michele McNeil has a detailed report on the new DOE plan and the concerns. There’s also coverage on Huffington Post.)

Under the latest renewal requirements, certain states have until next Feb. 28 to submit a letter requesting renewal and to “resolve any state-specific issues and ‘next steps’ identified as a result of [DOE] monitoring.” Waivers can be renewed for one year.

CDE spokeswoman Janelle Asmus said, “Now we’re working up our response to these, which means we’re seeing if we have any ‘issues,’ and we’re determining next steps.”

The NCLB waivers were the Obama administration’s response to congressional inaction on renewal and updating of federal education law.

See the full text of DOE letter to states here. (By the way, it’s a masterpiece of bureaucratese.)

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