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September 4, 2015

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Nevada Education Department files for waiver to opt out of No Child Left Behind

The Nevada Department of Education has officially asked to opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

In filing for the waiver Tuesday, Nevada joins 25 other states applying in the second round of waiver applications, according to Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault. Ten states from the first round of applications were granted waivers this month.

The deadline to apply for the waiver was extended a week from the original Feb. 21 to allow state education departments time to study the winning applications and make last-minute changes, Rheault said.

If granted by the U.S. Department of Education, Nevada’s waiver would free the state’s schools from the stringent No Child Left Behind Act, which focused on how many students were proficient in math and reading.

Under the federal act enacted in 2001, schools had to demonstrate achievement in 45 categories, such as graduation rates, socioeconomic status and academic achievement among students broken down by ethnicity, special education status, limited English proficiency and those qualifying for free and reduced-priced meals.

Failure to show improvement in any one of the categories automatically resulted in a school’s failure to meet the federal government’s “adequate yearly progress” measure. This bar would be raised annually to meet the federal law’s goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading for every American student by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Educators have long complained that this all-or-nothing policy has become unattainable, and that too many American schools would be deemed “failing” in several years.

Last school year, American schools were supposed to reach 66 percent proficiency in math and 64 percent in reading. The majority of Clark County schools — 61 percent — did not make adequate progress last year. (Standardized tests that determine a school’s “adequate yearly progress” will be administered in March, and results will be announced over the summer).

Nevada plans to replace No Child Left Behind’s “adequate yearly progress” measure with the growth model, which tracks a student’s academic progress over time. The growth model — adopted by 18 states — emphasizes how much a student has improved on tests year over year.

To meet the requirements of the waiver, Nevada adopted a common curriculum standard — the Common Core Standards — in 2010. Nevada received an extension on the waiver application to adopt a new teacher evaluation system. A state-level council will announce recommendations for a new standard to measure teacher effectiveness in June. >

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