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New York is still not ready to commit to seeking NCLB waiver

When the Obama administration first announced in August that it would offer states No Child Left Behind waivers, New York State said it would wait and see what the eligibility requirements were before deciding whether to apply. Today, President Obama announced the plan’s details, but the state still isn’t ready to commit.

The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging all states to apply for the waivers, and Race to the Top winners — which include New York — are seen as likely to win them. State and city education officials also expressed enthusiasm about the option.

“The president’s proposal to grant waivers to states that take steps to raise academic standards, address their lowest performing schools and measure the success of schools based on student progress — not just absolute proficiency — is commendable,” New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

But State Education Commissioner John King said the state wouldn’t decide whether to apply until October’s Board of Regents meeting. Before then, he said, state officials would reach out to “key stakeholder groups and accountability experts” to assess how the state could “best respond to this opportunity.” The first application deadline is in December.

The waivers offer states a chance to skirt some of NCLB’s strictest provisions, including the one that requires all students to score proficient on state tests by 2014. To win a waiver, states will have to put “college-ready” standards in place; set guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations; and hold schools accountable for their performance.

“This isn’t about jumping through hoops. It’s about supporting the good work that’s happening throughout the country,” senior administration officials said yesterday in a media briefing. “Our role is to simply get out of the way where we can and support innovation.”

Several states — including Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and South Carolina — have already indicated that they plan to seek waivers.

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