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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22, 2011, 6:01 P.M.

Luna to feds: Idaho won’t raise NCLB ‘benchmarks’ next year

Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna has sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying Idaho won't increase the “benchmarks” its students have to reach under the federal No Child Left Behind law next year, as the law requires, because the law measures only proficiency, not student academic growth from year to year. Instead, Idaho will use its own system for gauging student achievement, and not comply with that provision of No Child Left Behind until the federal law is overhauled to use better measures, the AP reports; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner. You can read Luna's letter to Duncan here.

Idaho won't raise No Child Left Behind benchmarks
JESSIE L. BONNER,Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho schools will not comply with some parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law until it is reformed to measure student academic growth from year to year, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna says.

Luna sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan saying Idaho will begin implementing a new statewide accountability system to measure whether students are making adequate progress.

Idaho will not raise the benchmarks schools have to meet under 9-year-old federal law — or sanction schools that do not meet these higher testing goals — until No Child Left Behind is fixed to better gauge student achievement, Luna said.

The long-awaited overhaul of No Child Left Behind began last month in the U.S. House with the first in a series of targeted bills. But a comprehensive reform of the nation's most important education law appears far from the finish line.

Idaho can no longer wait, Luna said.

"The law has become a stumbling block to continued improvement in raising student achievement," Luna said.

New education laws backed by Luna and the governor focus on the academic growth of students, not on whether they can pass a test, he said.

The state cannot afford to implement the changes and also put money toward schools that will be placed in the "needs improvement" category under No Child Left Behind after benchmarks under the law are increased this year, Luna said.

"We don't have the luxury of time and resources to continue on with the federal law that should have been rewritten four years ago," he said.

More than two-thirds of Idaho's schools made gains under No Child Left Behind last year.

Schools are required to meet 41 benchmarks for student achievement under the law and a school's annual yearly progress, or AYP, is calculated based on test participation, academic achievement, graduation rates and other statistics.

But every few years, the percentage of students who must pass state tests increases.

Nationwide, millions of students remain far from reaching the law's ambitious goal of having 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014

Fewer students in Idaho made adequate progress last year, when benchmarks under the law were increased dramatically.

This year, a school would need 90.4 percent of its students to reach grade-level proficiency in reading to make adequate progress under the law, up from 85.6 percent last year. In math, a school would need 88.7 percent of its students to reach grade-level proficiency to achieve adequate progress, up from 83 percent.

The state will release all of the testing data on how schools performed, Luna said.

"But we're not going to classify them as needs improvement if they don't hit that higher goal and then put sanctions on them," Luna said.

While the reform of No Child Left Behind fix lags in Congress, other states are also implementing new accountability system

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear sent a letter Monday asking the federal government for a waiver that would allow the state to use a different method to measure whether students are making adequate progress under No Child Left Behind.

The request came shortly after Duncan announced that states may be offered relief from the No Child Left Behind requirements if the law isn't overhauled and reauthorized by Congress in the next few months.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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