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Education Reporter

States Plan to Defy NCLB Law
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So far, three states — Montana, Idaho and South Dakota — have told the U.S. Department of Education they will not follow the nine-year-old No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law for the upcoming school year, but will instead freeze their accountability targets at 2009-2010 levels.

NCLB calls for schools to bring all students to proficiency in math and language arts by 2014. Though states set their own targets for how much they must improve each year, many left the biggest leaps for the final years, assuming that the law would change before then. Now schools are increasingly failing to meet what NCLB calls "adequate yearly progress," and are subject to escalating sanctions, including firing teachers and closing schools. Now many states are growing desperate for a change in the law or a waiver from the Education Department.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress that 82% of schools will be labeled failing this year, though some education experts dispute that figure. Duncan has issued more than 300 NCLB waivers to school districts around the nation, but thus far has stopped short of allowing schools to flout the 2014 proficiency deadline.

Duncan drew the ire of House Education Committee chair John Kline (R-MN) by announcing his office is preparing new regulations that will offer NCLB waivers to states that commit to certain education reforms if Congress doesn't pass a rewrite of NCLB in time for the new school year.

Kline has repeatedly stated that there is "no chance" of meeting the Obama administration's August deadline, and that his committee is focused on "thoughtful reforms" rather than "timelines and rhetoric." Kline sent a letter asking Duncan to cough up details on the waiver plan by July 1st and questioning the Department's legal authority to grant waivers "in exchange for reforms not authorized by Congress." As of July 5th, Secretary Duncan had not responded.

Meanwhile, Kentucky has asked the Department for permission to substitute its own accountability model even as Montana, Idaho and South Dakota have taken the ask-for-forgiveness-instead-of-permission approach. Additionally, the Council of Chief State School Officers, representing every state but Texas, plans to lead an effort to overwhelm the Ed Department with waiver requests that would allow states to use an alternative accountability framework. (blogs.edweek.org, 6-23-11 and 7-5-11)

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