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NCLB waiver a 'relief'

7/27/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The U.S. Department of Education's approval of Kansas' request for flexibility in meeting some of the No Child Left Behind provisions won't mean a loss of accountability.

It means a shift from ensuring a certain percent of students are proficient on state reading and math assessments each year to one ensuring schools achieved a level of improvement on at least one of several annual measurable objectives from the state, according to the Kansas State Department of Education.

"There's a sense of relief from everybody from the 100 percent competent requirement," said Will Roth, Hays USD 489 superintendent.

However, accountability could get more intense and come with higher standards, he said. A new accountability system will be in place for the 2012-13 school year.

Keith Hall, Osborne USD 392 superintendent, said he's happy about the change.

"We're having the right conversation," Hall said. "I'm not sure we were."

Teaching students to take a test is OK, said Allaire Homburg, Stockton USD 271 superintendent, but teachers should focus on learning, not the test.

"Let them do their best, and let the chips fall where they may," he said.

The emphasis should be on each child's learning rather than what's best for the group. Testing should be done by the teacher on concepts they have taught, Homburg said.

"Schools should be held accountable and be honest," he said. "Let the numbers be what they are."

Besides student assessments, the state's waiver also is related to evaluating teachers and school leaders with a system tied to student achievement. Districts can adopt the Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol system or develop their own. KEEP will be piloted in 2013-14 and ready for implementation by 2014-15.

"Teachers will have to teach the curriculum at grade level, and teach it well," Roth said.

The assessments will rely on students building knowledge from year to year.

"In education we strongly believe in accountability," Roth said. "I like the idea of moving (assessment) to the individual."