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Colorado To Seek Waiver Of No Child Left Behind

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

DENVER (AP) – Colorado will join other states seeking a waiver from parts of the highly criticized federal No Child Left Behind law, the Colorado Board of Education decided Wednesday.

State Department of Education officials told the board that Colorado has changed how school districts are evaluated since the 2002 law took effect, and that parts of it have become outdated and put unnecessary and duplicative administrative burdens on schools.

The Obama administration has pushed for changes to Bush-era law that requires every student to be proficient in science and math by 2014, regardless of race, poverty, disability or their ability to speak English. Schools that fail to meet targets face increasing consequences, from paying for students to receive free tutoring to potential state takeovers.

Congress has been gridlocked on the reauthorization of the law, which prompted U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to announce last month he would give states that option to opt out of some of the law’s requirements.

“I think it is intended to be a catalyst for reauthorization discussions, to encourage Congress to act,” said Pat Chapman, the executive director of the office of federal program administration at the state department of education.

State education officials said in the presentation to the board that a wavier will allow Colorado to operate under a single accountability system set by the state and target college readiness instead of partial proficiency.

Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Virginia and Wisconsin are among a growing number of states that have said they’ll seek waivers. Waiver requests must be submitted by the end of October. The waivers would take effect in January 2012 for the approved states, the state department of education said.

To be approved for a waiver, states must agree to education reforms ranging from tougher evaluation systems for teachers and principals to programs helping minority students. Getting a waiver means states will no longer be required to have every student performing on grade level in math and English by 2014, but the sanctions in the law will remain.

Marcia Neal, a Colorado Board of Education member, said seeking a waiver doesn’t mean the state wants to dodge its responsibility for performance accountability.

“We need to be really clear, yes we do want to do it and we will do it in a better way than we have been doing,” she said.

Chapman said the state currently operates in a dual system of accountability because of NCLB, meaning some schools and districts are identified in need of improvement in one system but not in another. He said having a waiver will allow the state to focus more resources on the districts most in need.

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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