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Pennsylvania Considers Waiver of “No Child Left Behind”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education is looking into a federal waiver program that would replace the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law with new mandates from the Obama administration.

Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said the waiver would end "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) goals in reading and math. Under NCLB, every school district in Pennsylvania would have to be 100% proficient in reading and math by 2014, although Eller noted there are several ways for schools to reach AYP other than student achievement.

Eller said Pennsylvania has been hoping to halt its AYP obligations since January, when the state's request to freeze AYP at 2011 levels was denied. However, Eller said the Corbett administration still has some reservations about getting rid of AYP through the waiver program.

"Where the concern lies is, there is a federal law on the books right now, and whether or not the federal government has the authority to waive a law that has been duly enacted by the Congress," said Eller.

While the program would relieve Pennsylvania and its school districts of certain requirements imposed by NCLB, Eller noted the federal government also would require the state to enact new programs in order to be granted a waiver. Eller said the Obama administration is "pushing education policy down to the states" through the waiver program.

"States would have to implement several of their policy agendas, like teacher evaluation [and] increasing charter choice for students throughout the state," said Eller. "Some of those are already being moved forward by the Corbett administration," but he said the governor isn't sure about the legality of the waiver.

If Governor Tom Corbett decides to go through with the waiver program, Pennsylvania would need to offer the federal government an education policy that aligns with the Obama administration's. Pennsylvania would join eighteen other states who are applying for NCLB waivers; nineteen states have already had their NCLB obligations waived.