CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia education officials will submit a plan to the federal government Thursday to get out of some of the rigorous testing requirements of the decade-old No Child Left Behind law in exchange for making big changes that are a cornerstone of the Obama administration's education agenda.
The state's plan, known as a flexibility waiver, lays out an education roadmap focused on three main areas: adopting a set of standards that focus on college and career readiness known as "Common Core State Standards," creating a student and school assessment system based on test scores and data that emphasize student growth and achievement, and creating a teacher evaluation system that factors in student achievement.
State Department of Education officials have worked for months on drafting the flexibility waiver response. Now, it's just a waiting game to see whether the federal government accepts and fine-tunes the changes that state education leaders are proposing.
"We're creating a transparent, fair and rigorous system that focuses on all schools improving, not just those at the bottom," said Robert Hull, associate superintendent of the state Division of Teaching and Learning.
A group of peer reviewers will comb through West Virginia's detailed education plan in the upcoming weeks. Hull said the state will get full feedback on what changes it needs to make to its education proposals within three to six months and find out whether West Virginia's exemption from No Child Left Behind is granted.
The Obama administration announced in late September that it would roll back some of the key requirements of the Bush-era education law, including the 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and reading/language arts in exchange for states adopting education reforms.
So far, 26 states have received permission to work around No Child Left Behind. After sitting on the sidelines for several months, West Virginia officials announced in February that they were submitting a waiver.
"While the writers of No Child Left Behind had the right goals in mind, the law's one-size-fits-all approach has proven ineffective as a mechanism for accountability," state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple said in February. "Without a waiver, West Virginia would be forced to continue to identify schools with inappropriate measures and labels."
Under its proposed alternative to No Child Left Behind, West Virginia's plan details specifics about a series of new content standards that sets targets for students increasing their achievement, how a new statewide teacher evaluation system will play out and how the state plans to assess school performance.
West Virginia adopted its Common Core State Standards in May 2010 and worked for months to weave the more rigorous standards into the state's blueprint for curriculum, the backbone for what teachers are expected to teach students in each grade.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved a bill that would expand a pilot teacher evaluation system program to all 55 counties in the state by 2013-2014. The new teacher evaluation system evaluates teachers in their first five years of teaching each year. Teachers with five or more years of experience who have not received a negative performance evaluation will be evaluated once every three years.
Eighty percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on a teacher's ability to meet professional teaching standards, 15 percent of the evaluation is based on evidence of student learning and 5 percent would be based on students' test scores.
The third component of the waiver request is an accountability system that measures how well schools are educating students.
Under NCLB, schools are labeled "failing" if minority students, students with disabilities and students of a low-socioeconomic bracket fail to make "Adequate Yearly Progress" on standardized test scores.
This year, only 57 percent of the more than 650 schools in the state met Adequate Yearly Progress.
The state's new plan ditches NCLB's "failing" label for schools.
A school will be labeled "highly effective," "effective," "needs improvement," and "targeted for support" based on performance in four areas beyond just test scores. Those areas are: student achievement (32.5 percent of the total score), student growth (32.5 percent), how well a school closes its achievement gap (20 percent), and its attendance and graduation rate (15 percent).
"We're moving beyond the light switch of No Child Left Behind where schools were either failing or not," said Hull. "We're going to identify the right schools and on individual student achievement."
Reach Amy Julia Harris at amy.har...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.