The near impossible federal No Child Left Behind provision that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 has been eliminated for Louisiana, as the state was among the eight states winning approval from the U.S. Education Department this week on its alternative plan for public education without the red tape attached to the signature federal education law.

According to a release from the state Department of Education, “the federal waivers allow districts and schools to exercise flexibility from federal regulations, in exchange for instituting rigorous accountability systems.”

Louisiana was among 26 states applying for NCLB relief this go-around, which leaves 18 applications still pending with the U.S. Department of Education. Eleven states had previously been granted waivers before U.S. DOE's latest announcement.

“Louisiana’s approved waiver sets new standards for student performance and holds adults accountable for high levels of achievement,” state Superintendent of Education John White says in a prepared statement. “At the same time, our approved waiver empowers districts and schools by giving their leaders flexibility to choose how to spend their dollars and relieving them from burdensome regulations that too often take attention away from the classroom.”

The waiver will give the state full leverage over how to spend roughly $375 million in federal funds that were previously earmarked mostly for Title I programming, which targets low-income students.

LDOE, in a release announcing the waiver, outlines several significant changes in the way Louisiana will handle public education following the recent waiver approval from the feds:

-Aligns with Common Core levels of rigor: K-8 schools will no longer earn points for students who score below proficient on state tests (e.g., Basic on LEAP/iLEAP). The high school system further places value on the ACT, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations, which align to Common Core rigor.
-Focuses schools on students below grade level: A new value-added system will reward schools for effectively advancing the progress of students who are below grade level. (Currently, 225,000 students are below grade level in Louisiana.)

-Allows priority high schools (high schools transferred to the jurisdiction of the Recovery School District) with graduation rates below 60 [percent] to be served with Title I funds regardless of rank order.

-Removes the requirement to spend 20 [percent] of Title I on Supplemental Education Services.

-Removes the requirement to spend 10 [percent] of Title I funds on professional development.
-Allows Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to redirect Title I dollars to concentrate on funding activities that will positively impact student performance.

-Allows for the removal of federally-created bureaucratic burdens on district and school leaders. Effective immediately, districts will no longer need to submit burdensome federal reports, such as 1003(a) School Improvement Plans or Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) Target Improvement Plans.
The news from the U.S. Education Department garnered a wide range of support for Louisiana’s NCLB waiver effort, including statements from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and the head of the Louisiana School Boards Association.

Click here for the full LDOE release.

Read more from The Independent LDOE’s waiver application here and here.

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