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Kanas among 6 states, DC granted education waivers

7/19/2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas is among the latest states granted a waiver from key provisions of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, federal officials announced Thursday.

President Barack Obama told states last fall they could seek a waiver from an unpopular requirement that all students test proficient in math and reading by 2014. To get waivers, states must take actions that the Obama administration favors.

All told, 32 states have now been granted waivers, and four have outstanding requests. Kansas joined Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. as the newest batch of waiver recipients.

"I'm extremely pleased with the plan that has been advanced with the approval of our state's flexibility request," Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said in a news release. "An accountability system based on student growth and multiple measures is a key component of our waiver and I believe it will result in a far more meaningful assessment of the progress and success of Kansas schools."

Pressure to make changes to the No Child Left Behind law had been mounting because the percentage of students required to meet grade-level standards has been increasing rapidly each year as 2014 approaches. Under the law, schools that chronically miss annual targets and receive federal Title I funds to serve children from economically disadvantaged families are required to take aggressive actions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.

Kansas' new system will take effect in the upcoming school year. Under it, schools can show progress in four ways. One is proving achievement through an index that awards points for pushing students to a higher level on a five-part scale.

The state's public schools also will be required to use student achievement data, such as test scores, in evaluating teachers and administrators by the 2014-15 academic year. The state is piloting an evaluation system and will use a commission to determine the system's details, such as how much weight should be given to test scores and how to evaluate teachers of subjects that aren't tested, such as art and music.

"The review process took a little longer than we had anticipated, but I believe we gained a stronger plan through the process," DeBacker said. "It was important to me and to our State Board of Education that the integrity of the Kansas plan was preserved, and I believe it has been. I'm looking forward to sharing the details with school districts and working toward implementation."