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Va.'s New NCLB Targets: To Be Determined

By guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk

So just what percentage of Virginia students have to be on grade level in each school to make "adequate yearly progress" under the No Child Left Behind Act? Well, it has to exceed 81 percent this year, and after that ... the state doesn't actually know yet and neither, apparently, does the U.S. Department of Education.

The genesis of this situation is in this request from the state, to hold its AYP target steady at 81 percent this year, and this letter from the Education Department.

Theoretically this is no big whoop, as states have been permitted to submit amendments to their accountability plans since the early days of the law. In the past, ED has let a handful of states re-set the targets following major changes to their instructional programs, like adopting a harder curriculum. Virginia officials are making the case that they're updating the state's Standards of Learning and accompanying assessments and want to institute a student-growth measure.

What is highly unusual, though, is that Virginia doesn't specify its new targets beyond this year, and that that omission is apparently just fine by ED.

A state spokesman said the state board of education has yet to determine the new AYP targets. Under the NCLB law, the targets must ensure all students are proficient by 2014, though states can set their own trajectories toward that goal.

In the meantime, there's nothing stopping all of the other states from asking for this same kind of flexibility, especially now that 37 states have adopted the common standards and, presumably, are hoping to adopt new assessments, too.

Tip of the hat to Cathy Grimes, a reporter at the Daily Press, in Newport News, Va., who broke the news about the waiver.

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