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Maine, New Hampshire Won't Apply for NCLB Waiver Just Yet

The education commissioners in Maine and New Hampshire say they refuse to be "rushed" into revamping their K-12 accountability systems and will not apply for a No Child Left Behind waiver from the U.S. Department of Education by the Feb. 28 second round deadline.

In a letter Maine's Stephen Bowen and New Hampshire's Virginia Barry sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today, the two said they need more time to figure out how to make the department's waiver requirements work in their rural states—namely the requirements around intervening in low-performing schools and evaluating teachers based on performance. These are two areas that can pose challenges for rural schools that already struggle with staffing.

The two states still plan to apply for a waiver, just not as soon as they originally intended.

Both Maine and New Hampshire had signaled to the department that they planned to apply for waivers by the Feb. 28 deadline. However, the folks in Maine pointed out that they had hoped to use feedback from the first round of waiver applications to help build their request. (This is an excellent reason why Politics K-12 repeatedly made the case that the department should release the letters it sent to the 11 states requesting changes to their waiver proposals sooner rather than later.) The public and other states didn't get a chance to see those letters until last week, however.

In their letter to Duncan, the commissioners explained, "This system has to be plausible and focus on the needs of our states. It must be credible with our educators, a reality largely lacking in current ESEA legislation. Rushing to create and implement a plan without this broad involvement will result in a less thoughtful system that ill serves the students in our states."

This means the two states will take advantage of the department's offer to hold their "annual measurable objectives", or AMOs, steady for a year. This means that the No Child Left Behind goalpost won't move in those states, so Maine and New Hampshire won't see a jump in the number of schools not making adequate yearly progress and facing sanctions. Both states say they want to build new accountability systems, and have them fully implemented, by the 2013-14 school year.

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