State Gets First Federal Waiver for “No Child left Behind”

The Federal Department of Education has given Alaska a waiver for one of the requirements created by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the decision,  the state would be allowed to freeze its student proficiency targets –formally referred to as Annual Measurable Objectives —  for one year if Alaska commits to applying for a larger package of waivers by September sixth.

Eric Fry, with the state’s Department of Education, says by freezing the target levels,  local school districts and individual schools will be more likely to  meet the Annual Yearly Progress requirements.

The reason that’s beneficial is that at the same time we’re doing this freeze, we’re also putting together an application for a comprehensive waiver in which the state would implement its own accountability system.  So it wouldn’t make sense to run the schools and districts through another year of the old NCLB when we’re going to be changing things pretty soon.

The frozen targets will require that eighty-three percent of students be proficient in English and seventy five percent of students be proficient in math.  The system the state is planning to submit for federal  approval would still hold the local schools responsible – only using a different method of determining accountability and with different consequences if a student fails.   He says the state plan avoids much of the wasted efforts of the current federal standards.

Fairbanks Democrat  Bob Miller is a long-time advocate of getting waivers from the federal system.  He says twenty six states have now been granted waivers from the federal controls that were proving ineffective.  He ‘s encouraged that Alaska may soon follow.

They want us to succeed.  They’ve recognized the gaps.  They’ve recognized the flaws in the No Child Left Behind System.  And they’re happy to work with every state including ours.  So the State of Alaska is gaining more and more control over our own destiny, and that can never be a bad thing.

Fry says the target freeze will go into place immediately – with tests that students took last April and results that will be released next month.    He’s  says other changes will take place at the state level over several years.

Teachers are going to start implementing the new standards soon,  the students will not actually be assessed on them until the Spring of 2016.  So they’re have several years of being educated under the new standards before being assessed under them.

The federal waiver must be formally accepted by the state Board of Education at a teleconferenced meeting on  July 24th.  It will require the adoption of new regulations that are already out for public  comment.  The Board last month approved its new standards for accountability that will be submitted to the federal government in September.

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