Pence urges feds to OK education standards waiver

With just weeks until a key deadline, Gov. Mike Pence urged the U.S. Secretary of Education to accept Indiana’s request to extend a waiver of federal No Child Left Behind rules.

The waiver allows Indiana to set different state standards for education without having to fully comply with the rules set by the controversial federal law.

State officials have until the end of the month to submit an application to request a one-year extension of the state’s waiver or it won’t be renewed for the 2014-2015 school year. Federal officials have notified the state that it needs to make changes to keep the waiver.

If it is taken away, schools will lose the flexibility for how they use some federal funds they receive to help disadvantaged children.

“My administration is fully committed to retaining this waiver and the state and local flexibility it affords to our students, teachers and schools,” Pence said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

State education officials are working to create a new state exam for 2015 as part of its effort to extend its waiver. That will be one year earlier than the state had planned.

In his letter, Pence said that Indiana is committed to the new statewide test and is confident that Indiana can implement recently approved standards in the spring of 2015. The state opted for those standards rather than Common Core, a controversial set of standards implemented by most states.

“We recognize that Indiana has been a national leader in education, forging our own way and promoting innovative solutions in our schools. We intend to continue this proud tradition,” Pence said.

“We have created rigorous standards and will develop our own rigorous assessment, because we understand that our children’s future is tied directly to the quality of their education, which in turn is tied directly to our commitment to accountability in our schools,” he said.

Hoosiers for Higher Education, a not-for-profit organization, applauded Pence for his “leadership” in working to extend the NCLB waiver.

“Keeping the state and local flexibility the waiver provides is essential to our teachers, students and school leaders, and is key to the continued improvement of Indiana’s educational system,” said Fred Klipsh, chairman of the board for Hoosiers for Quality Education in a statement Friday. “As we transition to a new assessment based on new and rigorous college and career ready standards, we know it will be challenging.  We also know that our teachers are professionals, and will meet whatever challenge they face.”

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