JUNEAU — Alaska’s education commissioner said Monday that the state plans to take the steps needed to seek a waiver from provisions of the federal education law No Child Left Behind.
Michael Hanley told The Associated Press the decision boiled down to either seeking a waiver or “riding out” No Child Left Behind, which he said would result in more and more schools being labeled as failing because they would not meet the soon-to-be rising bar for measuring annual progress.
Hanley said he didn’t expect any changes to the law before the November presidential election and said it even could be another year or more beyond that.
In the meantime, he said state officials are taking the steps necessary to file a waiver request by a September deadline for a new round of applications.
“The bottom line is, if I thought that we were having to sacrifice what I thought was going to be good for Alaska in order to get a waiver, we would just probably ride it out,” he said. “But I think we can move forward, with components that I think are going to have a positive impact and positively affect our education system and will allow us to get a waiver at the same time.”
He said the decision was made in conjunction with Gov. Sean Parnell.
Last year, the Obama administration announced that it would let states avoid certain requirements of No Child Left Behind, like students showing they’re proficient in reading and math by 2014, if the states met other conditions. Those conditions include imposing their own standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.
Nineteen states have gotten waivers so far.
Critics have labeled the law as a one-size-fits-all approach to education that doesn’t fit Alaska’s needs. While U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and some state Democratic lawmakers had earlier called on the Parnell administration to seek a waiver, Hanley said it was important that things be done “right, not just fast.” Among other things, the state education department was awaiting a decision from the board of education on new standards for K-12 education, a decision that came just last week.
Officials also have reviewed other states’ applications and been monitoring the states that have gotten waivers to see if the process is something the state could move forward with, he said.
Hanley said the adoption of new standards was critical for the state’s ability to move forward with a waiver request, but he said the push to overhaul them started long before the waiver option was announced.
“We developed our (new) standards because we think our kids need it,” he said, referring to the changes in standards for math and English/language arts. “Our kids need to be able to compete in a global economy with kids around the country for the jobs that they need.”