State Board grants approval to submit NCLB waiver application

The State Board of Education gave its approval today — Feb. 21 — for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to seek relief from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The U.S. Department of Education is inviting each state education agency to voluntarily request flexibility from certain accountability provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as NCLB. Passed more than one decade ago, the federal law calls for all students to be proficient in reading and math by the year 2014.

State education officials see the flexibility waiver as an opportunity to redefine and align federal accountability requirements to the state’s updated Missouri School Improvement Program, which is designed to ensure all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. The state plan also aims to guide student academic performance into the top 10 nationally by the year 2020, according to a DESE news release.

Last fall, Missouri was among a group of 28 states that signaled initial interest in submitting an application in the second round. Waivers approved in the first and second rounds could go into effect as early as the 2012-2013 school year. Earlier this month, all 11 states that applied in the first round received approval. Applications submitted in later rounds will not go into effect until the following school year.

In its decision today, the State Board of Education approved the waiver application in concept and authorized Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro to submit it on behalf of the state with minor edits needed before the Feb. 28 deadline.

In the presentation to the State Board today, department staff members reviewed how the application addresses provisions related to regulatory, administrative and reporting requirements in exchange for a rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plan.

Nicastro expressed appreciation to the many school administrators, teachers, parents, staff, state officials and others who took time to review earlier drafts and provide feedback to the application as it developed over the past three months, the release stated.

If the waiver is granted, Missouri will use the required elements of the state accountability system for federal compliance purposes. This will streamline schools’ improvement work and be much easier for parents and the public to fully understand, she stated.

“Our work has produced an accountability system for our state that reflects the strong foundation of the Missouri School Improvement Program over the past two decades,” Nicastro stated in the release. “We believe we are putting forward an ambitious, yet achievable, plan designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction.”