Indiana awaits decision on waiver from federal education law

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Indiana education officials expect to know in the coming months whether the state will have continued flexibility from the requirements of federal No Child Left Behind law.

The Indiana Department of Education has asked federal officials for a three-year extension of the waiver it received for this past school year, agency spokesman Daniel Altman said.

The waiver frees the state from some of the No Child Left Behind's testing and school progress rules and lets Indiana keep greater control of how it spends some $230 million in federal education funding.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday approved waivers for seven states and the District of Columbia.

Officials expect a decision on Indiana's waiver request by late summer or early fall, Altman told the Evansville Courier & Press ( ).

The current waiver application was prepared without the in-fighting that was seen last year between a now-disbanded education agency created by Republican Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Department of Education headed by Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Pence's top education aide at the time submitted a 28-page critique of the state's waiver last summer, questioning the capabilities of Ritz's staff to perform work outlined in the application.

Altman said the new request is similar to the one submitted last year.

"We just went through this process less than a year ago, so obviously a lot of it is going to be the same," Altman said.

To retain the waiver for the past school year, the state had to show plans to implement the new learning benchmarks adopted for Indiana schools to replace the national Common Core academic standards.

The 2002 landmark education law signed by President George W. Bush required annual testing and put into place consequences for schools that didn't show progress. It led to complaints that teachers were forced to teach to the tests, and that some of the mandates weren't realistic.

The Obama administration has granted waivers to 42 states since 2012 as federal lawmakers have been at odds for years on how to fix the law.

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