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Published in Print: August 21, 2013, as Guidance on Waiver Renewals Expected Soon, Ed. Dept. Says

Federal Guidance Expected on Waiver Renewals

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Federal guidance is likely to be issued by the end of the month for states to renew their waivers from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Achievement and School Accountability office told state officials at a recent conference here.

Speaking at the annual summer meeting of the National Association of State Title I Directors, held here July 30-Aug. 2, Monique Chism, the director of the achievement and accountability office, said the document was undergoing final clearance by the Office of Management and Budget. This is the last step before the department can release it to the states.

So far, 40 states and the District of Columbia have received waivers giving them relief from increasingly unworkable portions of the law, such as its lock-step school improvement process and its 2014 deadline for universal student proficiency. Of these waiver participants, 34 states and the District of Columbia were approved in the first two application rounds; their waivers expire at the end of school year 2013-14. The five states approved earlier this year in the third round—Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and West Virginia—are not yet up for renewal.

“We anticipate that submission [of renewal applications] would occur in January and March,” Ms. Chism told the Title I officials. “We are going to have two windows for that. Our intent is to do this quickly and early, so if there are any legislative changes or policy changes required, you guys have enough time to work on that.”

“We are working to make this a ‘light lift,” she added.

Monitoring Rounds

Also entering into the Education Department’s waiver renewal decisions will be the results of its first two monitoring rounds (termed “Part A” and “Part B”), she said. The Part A round examined each state’s readiness to implement its waiver plan and relied entirely on a “desk-monitoring” process involving conference calls and a review of state-submitted documents. That round has been completed. The Part B round—involving a mix of on-site and desk-monitoring—will focus on the implementation status of three specific elements of each state’s application, two chosen by the Education Department and one by the state. The department is wrapping up the pilot stage of Part B, with Colorado and Mississippi acting as pilots for on-site monitoring and Connecticut and New Jersey participating in desk-monitoring.

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Ms. Chism said the department also plans to conduct “data runs” on various elements of states’ waiver plans, particularly relating to state accountability and support systems.

“We are asking you to make changes to your actual plan, so we hope that that plan is a living document that you are using in the state to help guide your efforts,” Ms. Chism said. “We worked very hard to streamline the renewal process. You will actually be updating your plan and adding some information to some of the new areas.”

So far, only California, Montana and Nebraska have chosen not to apply for NCLB law waivers, while North Dakota and Vermont withdrew their requests. The department on Aug. 6 approved a separate district-level waiver application submitted by a consortium of eight large California school districts.

Vol. 33, Issue 01, Page 21

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