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UPDATE: Ga. gets waiver for No Child Left Behind
State proposes College and Career Readiness Index instead
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UPDATE: State Superintendent John Barge said in a released statement, “This is wonderful news for Georgia’s students, educators, and parents. No longer will we be bound by the narrow definitions of success found in No Child Left Behind. We will now be able to hold schools accountable and reward them for the work they do in all subjects and with all students.”

Governor Nathan Deal added, “This waiver will give Georgia the flexibility we need to pursue our goals of student achievement. We appreciate the cooperation of federal officials as we seek to prepare young Georgians for higher education and the jobs of tomorrow.”

As part of the waiver, the Georgia Department of Education will begin identifying Priority Schools, Focus Schools, and Reward Schools (see attached chart for details). Achievement data from all core content areas and graduation rate data will be used to identify these schools. At the end of this current school year, these Priority Schools and Focus Schools will replace current Needs Improvement Schools. Reward Schools will replace the current Distinguished Schools designation and will be announced in September 2012.  

Georgia will also identify Alert Schools in three categories:  Subgroup Alert Schools, Subject Alert Schools, and Graduation Alert Schools. These Alert Schools will be identified based on a more detailed evaluation of subgroup performance.  

College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI)
Georgia will also begin using the College and Career Ready Performance Index (attached) next school year for statewide accountability. The Priority Schools, Focus Schools, and Reward Schools will be reported within the CCRPI.  The GaDOE will immediately begin working with educators across the state to define specific calculations for the CCRPI.  

Highlights from Georgia’s waiver:

1.        Continue development and refinement of the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) during 2012
2.        Identify Reward, Priority, and Focus Schools
3.        Identify Alert Schools, which are unique to Georgia and provide greater emphasis on subgroup performance
4.        Use all core content areas(state assessments) in the identification of Priority, Focus, and Alert Schools
5.        Set Performance Targets to replace the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) under AYP
6.        Exercise greater flexibility with federal funding
7.        Authorize districts to provide Flexible Learning Programs (FLPs) in place of Supplemental Education Services (SES) providers
8.        Follow state law (O.C.G.A. 20-2-2130) relative to school choice
9.        Include Reward, Priority, Focus, and Alert status on the CCRPI
10.      Implement CCRPI as Georgia’s state accountability system during 2012-2013



(Feb. 9, 8:58 a.m.) WASHINGTON (AP) — Georgia is one of 10 states that will be freed from the strict and sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, giving the state leeway to improve how they prepare and evaluate students, The Associated Press has learned.

The first nine states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The only state that applied for the flexibility and did not get it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval, a White House official told the AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the states had not yet been announced.

President Obama is expected to formally announce the waivers this afternoon.

In Georgia, instead of an assessment based on a single test, the state proposed a College and Career Readiness Index – an assessment based on more than 20 factors rather than a single test. 

“With No Child Left Behind, what we’ve done is prepared children to pass a test,” said State Superintendent John Barge, during a visit to Rockdale Career Academy last fall. “We’re graduating a lot of kids that can pass a test but are they ready to pass a test and ready for careers?”

The CCRI would take into account academic achievement, academic progress, and closing of the achievement gap. In addition to the CCRI, schools would also be given an “efficiency rating” to show how much money is being spent per student versus the results being achieved. 

With the NCLB waiver, Georgia schools and school systems would be put on hold for 2011-2012 so benchmark data can be collected.

“It’s not a wiping the slate clean, they’re going to stay put,” explained Barge. Under the proposed system, Needs Improvement schools would receive support specifically tailored to their needs.

Ga. DOE spokesperson Matt Cardoza said U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan was impressed with the stakeholder involvement in creating the CCRI.

“We’re one of the first ones to submit a waiver with the next generation accountability system. Many have come with waivers to parts of the law, just trying to get out from under it. Instead of this is a better accountability measure,” Cardoza said.

RCPS school board member Darlene Hotchkiss said, “Georgia didn’t come and say we don’t like it. Georgia came with a clear picture of what direction to go.”

As for the wide variety of measurements and factors, RCPS Assistant Superintendent Gene Baker said Rockdale County Public Schools already tracks and reports to the school board on much of the information that would be required in the CCRI. 

A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers - a sign of just how vast the law's burdens have become as a big deadline nears.

No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Obama's action strips away that fundamental requirement for those approved for flexibility, provided they offer a viable plan instead. Under the deal, the states must show they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.

In September, Obama called President George W. Bush's most hyped domestic accomplishment an admirable but flawed effort that hurt students instead of helping them. He said action was necessary because Congress failed to update the law despite widespread bipartisan agreement that it needs fixing. Republicans have charged that by granting waivers, Obama was overreaching his authority.

The executive action by Obama is one of his most prominent in an ongoing campaign to act on his own where Congress is rebuffing him. No Child Left Behind was primarily designed to help the nation's poor and minority children and was passed a decade ago with widespread bipartisan support. It has been up for renewal since 2007. But lawmakers have been stymied for years by competing priorities, disagreements over how much of a federal role there should be in schools and, in the recent Congress, partisan gridlock.

For all the cheers that states may have about the changes, the move also reflects the sobering reality that the United States is not close to the law's original goal: getting children to grade level in reading and math.

Critics today say the 2014 deadline was unrealistic, the law is too rigid and led to teaching to the test, and too many schools feel they are labeled as "failures." Under No Child Left Behind, schools that don't meet requirements for two years or longer face increasingly tough consequences, including busing children to higher-performing schools, offering tutoring and replacing staff.

As the deadline approaches, more schools are failing to meet requirements under the law, with nearly half not doing so last year, according to the Center on Education Policy. Center officials said that's because some states today have harder tests or have high numbers of immigrant and low-income children, but it's also because the law requires states to raise the bar each year for how many children must pass the test.

In states granted a waiver, students will still be tested annually. But starting this fall, schools in those states will no longer face the same prescriptive actions spelled out under No Child Left Behind. A school's performance will also probably be labeled differently.

The pressure will probably still be on the lowest-performing schools in states granted a waiver, but mediocre schools that aren't failing will probably see the most changes because they will feel less pressure and have more flexibility in how they spend federal dollars, said Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank.

While the president's action marks a change in education policy in America, the reach is limited. The populous states of Pennsylvania, Texas and California are among those that have not said they will seek a waiver, although they could still do so later.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said states without a waiver will be held to the standards of No Child Left Behind because "it's the law of the land."

Some conservatives viewed Obama's plan not as giving more flexibility to states, but as imposing his vision on them. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, said the president allowed "an arbitrary timeline" to dictate when Congress should get the law rewritten and set a dangerous precedent by granting the education secretary "sweeping authority to handpick winners and losers."

Duncan maintained this week that the administration "desperately" wants Congress to fix the law.

In an election year in a divided Congress, that appears unlikely to happen.

A Senate committee last fall passed a bipartisan bill to update the law, but it was opposed by the administration and did not go before the full Senate for a vote.

Kline released a draft of a Republican-written bill to update the law, earning the ire of California Rep. George Miller, the committee's ranking Democrat. Miller said such partisanship "means the end" to No Child Left Behind reform in this Congress. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over education, has said he believes it "would be difficult to find a path forward" without a bipartisan bill in the House.


Michelle Kim contributed to this article.

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