Georgia School Superintendent Dr. John Barge announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Education granted Georgia a waiver from No Child Left Behind.
“This is wonderful news for Georgia’s students, educators and parents,” Barge said in a news release. “No longer will we be bound by the narrow definitions of success found in No Child Left Behind. We will now be able to hold schools accountable and reward them for the work they do in all subjects and with all students.”
Only 10 states received the waiver, which releases schools within the states from the ever-increasing benchmarks of Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, which aims to have all students aligned and proficient by 2014.
New Mexico is the only state that applied and did not receive a waiver, the Associated Press reported. Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee are the other nine to be released from the standard.
Though Liberty County School System administrators still were digesting the news Thursday afternoon — and a 152-page document detailing the state’s request and planned accountability system — Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer has said in the past that the change may have local benefits.
As the Courier previously reported, the increasing benchmarks under AYP create the perception that more schools are “failing” because they do not meet standards that many in education believe are too high.
The percentage of schools in the state making AYP fell from 71 percent in 2010 to 63.2 percent in 2011, according to reports released in July.
Scherer previously said the 85 percent graduation rate expected with AYP has hurt Liberty County. In 2011, neither Liberty County High School, with 75.1 percent, nor Bradwell Institute, with 77.1 percent, met the AYP requirements.
The same year, each of the county’s middle and elementary schools either met or exceeded the standards.
As part of the waiver, the state Department of Education will use achievement data from all core content areas and graduation rates to identify priority schools, focus schools and reward schools, the news release said.
At the end of the school year, priority schools and focus schools will replace needs-improvement schools. Reward schools, which will replace the current distinguished-schools designation, will be announced in September.
The state also will begin using the College and Career Ready Performance Index for statewide accountability during the upcoming school year, according to a news release from Deputy State Superintendent Martha Reichrath.
The new assessment area could give Liberty a boost. Still, Scherer said in September that without knowing the complete details of the index, administrators cannot predict whether Liberty County’s scores would change under the proposed system.
“It has to be better — I think,” Scherer said Thursday. “But the devil is always in the details.”