KCK, 2 other Kansas school districts get No Child Left Behind waivers

Three Kansas school districts have received some but not all of the waivers they sought from the No Child Left Behind federal education law.

The Kansas Department of Education said the McPherson, Kansas City, Kan., and Clifton-Clyde districts won't have to use state exams to test eighth-grade and high-school students in reading, math and science. The U.S. Department of Education will allow them to track the academic progress of its older students using the ACT college entrance exam and another test designed for younger students called ACT EXPLORE.

Federal officials won't allow the districts to use alternative exams for third- to seventh-grade students. The districts wanted to use a combination of the EXLORE and another exam called the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress to show their younger students were making academic gains.

The state Board of Education asked federal officials to reconsider their refusal, but learned last week that the appeal had been rejected.

McPherson was granted a similar waiver last year, although that waiver allowed it to use the EXPLORE exam with its sixth- and seventh-graders. This year marked the first time that the Kansas City and Clifton-Clyde districts sought waivers.

“While we are disappointed that these school districts were not granted their waivers in full, we are grateful that they are able to use the ACT exam for accountability for their high school students and the EXPLORE exam with their eighth grade students,” said Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker in a written statement.

Kansas also is seeking a statewide waiver from some provisions of the NCLB law. If granted, Kansas schools would no longer face a 2014 deadline for ensuring that 100 percent of their students perform well on state tests. But unlike the three districts' waiver requests, the state's waiver request would still rely on state tests.

The Obama administration is allowing states that promise to improve how they prepare and evaluate students along with other changes to get a waiver around the law. The waivers are considered a stopgap measure until Congress acts to update the decade-old law, which has been up for renewal since 2007.