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Oklahoma seeks waiver of federal education reforms

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi is confident Oklahoma soon will be out from under the No Child Left Behind Act, following a new set of standards and regulations developed by her agency and submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: January 16, 2012
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A positive response from the U.S. Department of Education indicates Oklahoma could soon escape out from under federal regulations that have reigned supreme in education since 2002.

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said receiving a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act would be a game changer for education in the state.

“Teachers and principals and superintendents aren't going to be chasing a magic golden test score number, which causes them to focus on certain groups to make sure they pass a test,” Barresi said.

“They are now going to be able to focus on each individual child, children that are struggling up to gifted and talented children, because the focus will now be on growth of every student.”

If the waiver is approved by the U.S. Education Department, Oklahoma schools would no longer receive Academic Performance Index scores that rate school performance on a scale from zero to 1,500 points. That score is based almost entirely on student performance on standardized tests.

Instead, Oklahoma schools would be judged on a new scale using an A-F letter grade. It will base the score in part on the same tests as the old system, but Barresi said it takes into account student improvement on the exams, rather than raw test scores.

Oklahoma submitted a more than 300 page application requesting the ability to ignore some of the federal mandates that stemmed from the Bush administration's sweeping education reform in 2002. The application outlines a homegrown system that would replace the federal regulations.

Only 11 states applied in this first round of waiver requests, but other states have indicated they will apply in the future.

Last month states received feedback on their applications.

Concerns

The cover letter sent to Oklahoma is mostly positive but raises a few key concerns.

“Oklahoma's request is particularly strong in providing a comprehensive framework for transitioning to the Common Core State Standards,” wrote Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary with the U.S. Education Department.

The Common Core State Standards were developed by a consortium of states. The standards will replace the current education standards and curriculum known as Priority Academic Student Skills by June 2014.

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AT A GLANCE

Focus schools

Focus schools are eligible for state takeover if they fail to show an ability to improve. These 77 schools are the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools in the state based on student test scores, have graduation rates less than 60 percent or are school's eligible for School Improvement Grants.

Oklahoma City Public Schools:

• Astec Charter Middle

• Bodine Elementary

• Capitol Hill High

• Douglass Middle

• Dove Science Academy Elementary (charter)

• Emerson Alternative Education Middle

• F.D. Moon Elementary

• Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village (charter elementary)

• Jackson Middle

• Jefferson Middle

• John Marshall Middle

• Justice Alma SeeWorth Academy (charter)

• Lee Elementary

• Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary

• Marcus Garvey Leadership Charter

• Oklahoma Centennial Middle

• Oklahoma Centennial High

• Rogers Middle

• Roosevelt Middle

• Santa Fe South Middle (charter)

• Shidler Elementary

• Star Spencer High

• Thelma R. Parks Elementary

• U.S. Grant High

• Wheeler Elementary

Other schools in Oklahoma County:

• Crutcho Public School, Crutcho

• Webster Elementary, El Reno

• Council Grove Elementary,

Western Heights

• John Glenn Elementary, Western Heights

Tulsa Public Schools:

• Anderson Elementary

• Burroughs Elementary

• Celia Clinton Elementary

• Central High

• Clinton Middle

• Daniel Webster High

• East Central High

• Greeley Elementary

• Lindbergh Elementary

• Macarthur Elementary

• Marshall Elementary

• McClure Elementary

• McKinley Elementary

• McLain High School for Science and Technology

• Nathan Hale High

• Sequoyah Elementary

• Springdale Elementary

• Whitman Elementary

All others:

• Achille High

• Bokoshe Elementary

• Bokoshe Junior High

• Butner Elementary

• Caney Elementary

• Clayton High

• Dustin Elementary

• Farris Public School

• Geronimo High

• Graham High

• Grant Public School

• Greasy Public School

• Hanna Elementary

• Kenwood Public School

• Keyes Elementary

• Leach Public School

• Lone Wolf Elementary

• Mannsville Public School

• Marble City Public School

• Mason Elementary

• Maud Elementary

• Mill Creek Elementary

• Okay High

• Ryal Public School

• Schulter Elementary

• Skelly Public School

• Thackerville Elementary

• Thackerville High

• Turner High

• Tuskahoma Public School

Source: State Education Department,

ESEA Flexibility Request

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