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States gear up to opt out of No Child Left Behind law

By George Howell, CNN
updated 7:45 PM EDT, Fri September 23, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Obama announces state waivers to No Child Left Behind
  • Georgia is among a number of states seeking a waiver
  • Georgia lays out its alternative plan to measure achievement

Atlanta (CNN) -- A number of states, including Georgia, already are putting things in place to opt out of the controversial No Child Left Behind Law, following President Barrack Obama's announcement Friday that states can now apply for waivers.

The law, passed in 2001, requires, among other things, that public schools meet targets designed to make all students proficient in math and reading by 2014 or face penalties. The administration will begin reviewing applications to waive some of the demands the law places on states, Obama said Friday.

Top education officials in Georgia said Friday that it should be up to each individual state to decide how best to evaluate student performance in the classroom. Following the president's announcement, Georgia State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge described his state's alternative to closing the achievement gap.

The College and Career Ready Performance Index, "lets states determine how they approach the guiding principles," Barge said Friday. Georgia is one of a handful of states, including Kentucky, Delaware, and Wisconsin that have expressed interest in waivers seeking flexibility from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Barge and U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) personally delivered Georgia's request for a waiver to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Tuesday.

Barge said the waiver will give schools more flexibility. "It will not be a matter of the entire accountability label hinging on a single test," he said.

Under the administration's new guidelines, states will be encouraged to devise standards of accountability that do not treat all schools the same.

"The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level," Obama said in a statement.

In order to gain approval for waivers, states must present the U.S. Department of Education with credible alternative plans to measure performance.

Georgia's proposal focuses on several indicators to measure student performance, including reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies, offering an index that will vary based on grade level.

"With NCLB, science and social studies teachers were not measured to determine adequate yearly progress," Georgia Department of Education Communications Director Matt Cardoza said. "Many times, those teachers would feel their subjects were not as important. Now, there are multiple indicators, including science and social studies."

States that do not apply for waivers will still be expected to meet the guidelines set out by No Child Left Behind. States may submit official applications for waivers by mid-November. Waivers could be granted in early 2010.

CNN's Lesa Jansen contributed to this report

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