State mulls education law waiver

Federal goals are not reachable, Conn. official says

Associated Press / August 10, 2011

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HARTFORD - State education officials are considering whether to request a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law, which would give school districts some breathing room on meeting stringent testing requirements.

Several states are seeking waivers to the 2001 law, which President Obama’s administration wants to overhaul.

To get a waiver, however, states must agree to several education reforms the White House supports. They range from tougher evaluation procedures for educators to programs tackling the achievement gap between white and minority students.

The Connecticut state Board of Education has not decided whether to seek a waiver, but board chairman Allan Taylor said the No Child Left Behind requirement for math and reading proficiency from every student by 2014 is not possible - at least not without shifting huge amounts of money away from other necessities.

“Ultimately everybody’s going to need one because ultimately nobody can comply with the law,’’ Taylor said of the waivers.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday that Obama authorized him to grant waivers because Congress had failed to act on a comprehensive overhaul of the law.

The law requires proficiency from all students regardless of race, poverty, disability, or their ability to speak English. Schools that miss their targets face increasing consequences, from paying for students to receive free tutoring to potential state takeovers.

Goals become increasingly harder to reach as benchmarks climb toward the 100 percent goal, so even schools that make progress can fall short if that progress is considered insufficient.

Based on results from last year, more than one-quarter of Connecticut’s schools were falling short of the law’s requirements, particularly those in the poorest cities.

The newest results are scheduled to be released later this month.

State education officials have said that even some schools in middle-class or wealthy communities of Connecticut might make the list because some of their subgroups - smaller categories based on race or wealth - have not made as much progress as benchmarks would require.