Will Bigham, Staff Writer
Created: 10/16/2011 08:53:23 PM PDT

A majority of states indicated to the federal government last week that they will seek a waiver from No Child Left Behind regulations.

Though California officials are openly critical of the 9-year-old law, California was not among the 37 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that said they intend seek a waiver.

A California Department of Education spokeswoman said Friday that that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson remains undecided about whether to apply for a waiver.

The spokeswoman, Tina Jung, directed a reporter to a September news release in which Torlakson said he was carefully examining the proposal. He said he supports Congress approving a new law to replace No Child Left Behind.

The first deadline to submit a waiver plan is Nov. 14. The second submission deadline for a waiver review is in mid-February.

The Sept. 23 announcement of the federal waiver program “represents an acknowledgment by the (Obama) administration that the one-size-fits-all policies of No Child Left Behind are unworkable,” Torlakson said in the news release.

Torlakson said the federal government’s proposal, which makes certain demands of states, “would appear to cost billions of dollars to fully implement.”

“I would hope that the administration is prepared to provide the funds necessary to implement these provisions, or provide greater flexibility to California, which already has a strong school accountability system in place.”

The Obama administration’s plan allows states to scrap a key requirement that all children show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014.

To qualify, the states must submit a plan showing how they will meet certain requirements such as enacting standards to prepare students for college and testing for those standards, and by making teachers and principals more accountable by setting guidelines on evaluations.

Gary Rapkin, superintendent of the Bonita Unified School District, said that before California decides to seek a waiver, officials should “demand from Washington greater clarity, to unfold a bit more exactly what it means when you sign on for the waiver.

“If California signs on, it’s signing on without input from California teachers, California school administrators, so they are signing on without input from the very people that are doing the work on a day-to-day basis.”

Rapkin said many of the underlying ideas about education in the waiver requirements are unproven.

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