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Systems await more details of No Child waiver

WASHINGTON -- The days of worrying about making Adequate Yearly Progress soon may be behind school systems across Georgia and some other states.

On Thursday, Georgia and nine other states received waivers from President Barack Obama to free them of the requirements under the No Child Left Behind act.

Since 2001, under the federal NCLB act, schools and school systems across the nation have been required to meet a certain set of standards based on scores, attendance and participation in order to meet AYP requirements. Georgia uses the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, as well as other collected data like elementary school absenteeism and a high school's graduation rate as the basis for its AYP standards.

Schools are measured as a whole and divided by subgroups like ethnicities, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged.

Each year, the standards are raised. By 2014, the act requires that all students must be proficient in reading and math.

The states excused from the law no longer have to meet that deadline. Instead, they will have to put forth plans showing they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.

Jeff Meadors, vice chair of the Newton County Board of Education and dual enrollment coordinator at Georgia Perimeter College, said the waiver will allow Georgia to implement the Georgia College and Career Ready Performance Index.

"(It's) a better way to accurately depict what is happening in our schools," he said. "While NCLB and AYP did improve reading in our schools and did narrow the achievement gap in some areas, the instruments used to support NCLB and the annual measurable objectives have outlived their usefulness."

Meadors said the new measurement focuses on college and career awareness in the early grades, exploration in the middle grades and ultimate selection in the high schools.

"I believe (it) is a way to move in a direction that is less confusing to the public and realistic for teachers and students," he said. "(It) will allow us to share clear and present information with little complexity with the public."

Local systems are awaiting more information from the Georgia Department of Education before making any permanent plans.

"We look forward to accountability measures continuing through the final version of the waiver," said Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Sam King. "We believe the waiver will give schools in Georgia more flexibility with measurements across multiple categories related to student achievement. The waiver is also going to provide schools the opportunity to be recognized for growth and improvement."

In states granted a waiver, students still will be tested annually. But starting this fall, schools in those states will no longer face the same prescriptive actions spelled out under NCLB.

"We've offered every state the same deal," Obama said. "If you're willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we're going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.