published Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Georgia seeks waiver of No Child Left Behind rules

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SHANNON McCAFFREY, Associated Press

ATLANTA — Georgia education officials are seeking a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act and putting forward a new plan to measure the performance of the state's schools on more than just test scores.

State School Superintendent John Barge and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson were set to submit Georgia's waiver request on Tuesday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington. The state is among the first in the nation to appeal some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

No Child Left Behind relies on test scores to measure adequate yearly progress. The proposed Georgia alternative supplements test scores with other indicators like attendance, career or college readiness and how well the schools prepare students for the next level.

Isakson was one of the original authors of No Child Left Behind. But last week the Georgia Republican sponsored a bill with other GOP lawmakers to scrap the adequate yearly progress requirement. No Child Left Behind requires that all students be "proficient" in math and science by 2014. Those benchmarks are widely considered to be unrealistic.

Isakson said that after a decade of implementation the law "has served its purpose in raising expectations and standards."

"We knew when we wrote No Child Left Behind that if it worked, we would reach this point where schools would not be able to continue to meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) because the bar is set higher and higher each year for schools," he said.

Isakson said schools should still be accountable and report their progress, but it's time for a legislative alternative.

"Until Congress addresses this issue legislatively, I fully support the state of Georgia's request for a waiver from AYP," Isakson said.

Federal officials opened the door this month for states to apply for waivers from some NCLB mandates. But they need to show they are still measuring progress and pursuing reform.

Barge wants to have a waiver for the school year already under way. Under his plan, Georgia schools would gather this year's data as a baseline to measure progress later.

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