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Federal Waiver Paves Way for State-Designed Criteria for Judging Schools

The waiver Pennsylvania received from the federal No Child Left Behind education law paves the way for a state-designed set of criteria for judging schools.

The federal mandate that all students must be able to read and do math at their grade level by this year won't apply. Corbett administration officials say it would have been too high a hurdle for many school districts.

"As of the '11-'12 state assessments, nearly three quarters of students were proficient in both math and reading," said Tim Eller, Department of Education spokesman. "So that number would have had to increase from 72 percent, approximately, up to 100 percent this year."

With the waiver, schools will be assessed according to a new, state-designed set of factors including more than standardized tests. The first round of results will be publicly available this fall.

Eller said schools that are found to be lacking will have more choices besides the federally-offered recovery routes, which include some aggressive measures involving replacing staff and school principals.

"There is going to be additional options provided through the state Department of Education — professional development services, intervention services, support services," Eller said.

The recovery liaison is a position created by this new state evaluation system to help schools with high numbers of poor students.

Liaisons will be assigned to struggling schools and expected to "direct resources into that school to focus on improving student achievement."

Eller said he's not sure how the academic recovery liaisons will be hired, or whether they will be state employees or outside contractors.