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Common Standards a Deal-Killer for Waivers? Probably Not

Just last week, we were wondering how pivotal a role the common standards will play in states' bids to get waivers from No Child Left Behind. Now it is beginning to appear that abstaining from the common core won't trip states up.

One tidbit of evidence: the feds' decision to let Montana rewrite its NCLB rules. It didn't do this with a waiver; after all, the details of the waiver program won't be out until next month. It allowed Montana to ease back on the proficiency timeline by way of rewriting its NCLB accountability workbook. But the bottom line is that the state got some freedom from those rules. And it's one of the five states that hasn't adopted the common standards.

Next bit of evidence: A Washington Post blog reports that Virginia will qualify for a waiver even though it hasn't adopted the common standards. According to blogger Valerie Strauss, both federal and Virginia education officials said that common-core adoption is not a deal-breaker when it comes to NCLB waivers. Could it be because the state went through a process of incorporating common-core content into its own Standards of Learning, so that Virginia's expectations are now "comparable to ... or in some instances exceed" the common standards?

Language in the U.S. Education Department's Aug. 8 press release suggests that states will have other ways of proving that their standards meet college- and career-ready snuff. It notes that the administration's blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act calls for "college and career ready standards," among other things, and it says that its requirements for waivers will "reflect similar goals." (Check the blueprint yourself, but it includes the option that states can team up with their higher education systems to prove their standards are up to snuff.)

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