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Virginia Educators Seek 'No Child' Waiver

Virginia's school superintendents endorsed legislation Tuesday directing the state Board of Education to seek a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The waiver tops the Virginia Association of School Superintendents' priority list for the
Loudoun County School Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, president of the association, said the state's own public school accountability program is working well. He noted that 84 percent of schools are fully accredited, up from 2 percent when the Standards of Learning program began eight years ago.

"That is why we should be allowed to stay the course rather than be detoured by the cumbersome and, in many cases, counterproductive federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act," Hatrick said.

The law, which took effect in 2001, requires schools to meet benchmarks in at least 29 of 35 separate categories to make "adequate yearly progress." Those goals also must be met by smaller student subgroups, including those with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.

As a backup in case the waiver effort fails, the superintendents also endorsed several proposed revisions to the state's plan for implementing No Child Left Behind. The changes include giving students with limited English proficiency more time to take tests used to measure yearly progress and including retaken tests in determining whether a school makes the grade.

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the revisions Wednesday.

The superintendents' other legislative priorities include measures to address a shortage of school administrators, protecting a school construction fund from being tapped for other expenditures, full funding of the state's share of basic education services, and approval of the 3 percent raise for teachers proposed by Gov. Mark R. Warner.

Prince Edward County School Superintendent Margaret V. Blackmon, president-elect of the association, said Virginia's average teacher salary last year was $2,809 below the national average even though the state ranks 10th nationally in per capita income.

"We therefore have the financial ability to pay our teachers better salaries," she said.

Blackmon said Virginia has lost ground in recent years. In 1990, Virginia lagged only $423 behind the national average in teacher pay.

— Larry O'Dell, Associated Press
Washington Post


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