State board OKs No Child waiver

The Missouri Board of Education voted Tuesday to allow the state to request a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind education law’s requirement all students be able to do math and reading at grade level by 2014.

Missouri education officials want the federal government to track schools’ progress by relying on the Missouri School Improvement Program, a state-developed school accreditation system that dates to 1993. The latest version is designed to ensure all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers — a big federal push.

If the request is granted, the changes could go into effect as early as this fall in Missouri.

“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,” Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said in a news release.

Critics have claimed the No Child Left Behind law would eventually make all schools fail. Under the law, schools that miss annual targets and receive federal Title I funds for serving children from economically disadvantaged families face increasing consequences, from paying for students to receive free tutoring to potential state takeovers. The targets are becoming tougher to meet as 2014 approaches.

After Congress failed to make sought-after changes to the law, President Barack Obama said last fall states will be allowed to seek a waiver from some of the law’s tough proficiency requirements. To obtain the waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, states must meet conditions the Obama administration favors.

The Missouri board’s decision allows Nicastro to submit the waiver application with minor edits by Feb. 28, the deadline for the second round of requests. Eleven states were granted waivers earlier this month from the first round of requests.

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