No Child Left Behind waiver to be sought by Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said his department will seek a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, which in its current form calls for all students to test proficient in reading and math on annual state achievement exams by 2014.

Mr. Tomalis previously had resisted applying for a waiver -- an option made available by the Obama administration in September 2011 when it became apparent that Congress would not be able to agree on a reauthorization of NCLB before the 2014 deadline.

Pennsylvania is among six states that have not requested a waiver, although earlier this year Mr. Tomalis sought and was denied a two-year freeze on assessment performance targets.

Earlier this year, Mr. Tomalis said he was waiting for the outcome of the presidential and congressional elections to see if there was a possibility for new legislation.

But, the secretary said Tuesday, the re-election of President Barack Obama and the continued stalemate in Congress have made it apparent that new legislation won't be in place by 2014. Mr. Tomalis said during a recent conference he attended with other state secretaries of education and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, it became clear that a reauthorization of the legislation is not a priority issue for the federal administration.

It's also clear that it would be virtually impossible for 100 percent of Pennsylvania students to test proficient by 2014 given the fact that the number of districts making adequate yearly progress, known as AYP, as defined by the federal act fell from 94 percent in 2011 to 60.9 percent in 2012. As a result, Pennsylvania has little choice but to file for a waiver.

Mr. Tomalis said his "overriding concern" about applying for a waiver is that it would prompt changes in the way assessment is performed in Pennsylvania and those changes could become obsolete in several years if a new federal law is enacted.

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Mary Niederberger: or 412-263-1590.


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