Published Online: August 29, 2014

Kansas gets 1-year waiver of federal schools law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal officials granted a one-year extension of Kansas' waiver from the No Child Left Behind education law on Thursday after the state addressed concerns that it hadn't taken enough steps to use student test scores as part of teacher and leader evaluations.

Kansas first was granted a waiver in 2012, but was told last August it was at "high risk" of losing it because of the evaluation concerns. Using student achievement data to assess educators is a required part of the exemption from the requirement that all students score "proficient" on state-standardized math and reading tests.

The Kansas Department of Elementary Education said in a news release that a significant factor in this year's evaluation system will be whether students are making growth on tests. But the release added that the student growth data will not be used to make personnel decisions until the 2017-18 school year.

"We had concerns about the timeline for incorporating student growth measures into the evaluation process as well as the extent to which those measures should influence the evaluation," interim Kansas Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander said. "The USDE listened to our concerns and ideas and we were able to win their approval for our model."

Kansas' extension is through the 2014-2015 school year.

In granting the extension, the U.S. education department applauded Kansas for making targeted assistance available to all local districts and schools, as well as for an accreditation process that "moves beyond looking solely at performance on assessments."

The U.S. Department of Education also granted an extension to Indiana but denied Oklahoma's request.

"America's schools and classrooms are undergoing some of the largest changes in decades — changes that will help prepare our students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that tomorrow's economy will require," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "This extension will allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed to improve achievement for all students."

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