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State’s No Child Left Behind waiver to be expedited

nochildCopyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico will receive preferential treatment from the federal government when it applies for its next No Child Left Behind waiver extension because it has tied student test scores to its new teacher evaluation system.

New Mexico is among seven states the U.S. Education Department will allow to apply for four-year waiver extensions – compared with three-year extensions for most other states – and it will undergo an expedited review process.

Like New Mexico, the other states – Florida, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – have begun using student test scores in their teacher evaluation systems and have put in place other policies, such as school-grading systems, outlined in their waivers.

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Other states with waivers also have plans to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations but have delayed implementation.

Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said the “fast-track” designation is an acknowledgment that New Mexico is a leader in terms of making educational reforms.

“Our place in regards to reforms and transformation is right at the top,” Skandera said Tuesday. “We’re pretty proud.”

New Mexico will be able to apply for a waiver extension in January. Skandera said she expects the state will receive a response in the spring. Most states will be able to apply for an extension in March.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Education Department extended New Mexico’s initial waiver through the 2014-15 school year.

The waiver frees the state from the No Child Left Behind requirement that 100 percent of students score proficient on state standardized tests. The federal education law signed by George W. Bush in 2001 would have required all students to reach proficiency by the 2013-14 school year, or secure a waiver, in order to receive millions in federal funds.

In exchange for the flexibility, which New Mexico was first given in 2012, the state has agreed to put in place several initiatives aimed at improving school accountability, including teacher evaluations and school report cards that are based largely on standardized test scores.

Those initiatives have been controversial among many teachers and some local education officials, who have questioned the accuracy of evaluations and school grades. Some have called for a delay in the use of test scores in teacher evaluations.

Skandera has been steadfast in her support for the initiatives. She argues they are needed to improve education in New Mexico, which has ranked among the states with the poorest education outcomes.

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