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W.Va. Receives Federal Approval on Education Flexibility Waiver

May 20, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Board of Education has received a stamp of approval from the U.S. Department of Education on a proposal seeking relief from certain provisions of federal education law.

The West Virginia Board of Education and West Virginia Department of Education sought permission from the U.S. Department of Education to free West Virginia public schools from certain federal rules and deadlines so the state may focus more on improving learning and instruction. Those rules fell under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act. The waiver allows West Virginia to use its own accountability system to more effectively identify struggling schools and to efficiently direct resources to struggling schools.

"This is an exciting time for education in our state," said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. "Quality education is the doorway to a vibrant, healthy economic future for our state. The flexibility schools now have will allow them to focus on achievement and improvement so that all students are prepared for college and career success."

The U.S. Department of Education developed the flexibility process in 2011. In exchange for flexibility, states must show detailed plans for preparing all students for college and careers, targeting federal aid to students most in need, and pushing for better evaluation and support of teachers and principals. The state Board of Education submitted its waiver request in September 2012 in collaboration with several education stakeholders, including the West Virginia Governor's Office and teacher organizations.

"With this approval, we believe our schools will have the flexibility they need to increase the quality of instruction and enhance student achievement," said West Virginia Board of Education President Wade Linger. "Our plan gives schools, especially those struggling with low performance, the ability to focus on continual improvement in every classroom and at every programmatic level."

The ESEA Flexibility Waiver provides West Virginia with the flexibility needed to fully implement the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives. The request also allows for the establishment of a high-quality accountability system that values individual student academic growth, supports schools, and expands the Educator Evaluation System pilot. The request still holds schools accountable for student achievement results but shifts from a large number of schools not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress to a smaller number of schools flagged for targeted support.

As part of the new West Virginia Accountability Index (WVAI) proposed in the ESEA Flexibility Waiver, schools will fall into five rankings: priority, support, focus, transition and success. Schools identified for targeted support will receive resources and support from various entities, districts, Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), WVDE and others as appropriate.

"While we are excited about the opportunities that gaining flexibility gives our schools, we know the hard work is just beginning," West Virginia Superintendent of School Jim Phares said. "Our goal is to ensure that all West Virginia students graduate from high school truly prepared for college and career success."

For more information, visit http://wvde.state.wv.us/esea/, or contact Liza Cordeiro at the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at 304-558-2699.

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