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Associated Press, Published August 29 2012

North Dakota educators favor applying for No Child Left Behind waiver

BISMARCK – A committee of North Dakota education officials has voted in favor of applying for a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

State School Superintendent Wayne Sanstead will have the final say. Sept. 6 is the deadline for states to apply.

States are allowed to opt out of the controversial law if they meet certain requirements, including developing alternative standards that meet federal approval. More than two dozen states, including South Dakota, already have waivers.

An advisory committee of teachers, administrators and school board members formed by Sanstead decided against applying by the initial deadline last fall and by a second deadline earlier this year, to provide more time to work on standards. The committee voted 8-4 on Aug. 15 in favor of pursuing a waiver. North Dakota residents can submit comments about the idea through Saturday on the state Department of Public Instruction website, at http://www.dpi.state.nd.us.

Sanstead will weigh recommendations from the committee and the comments from the public, said Greg Gallagher, state director of school standards and achievement.

The North Dakota Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, supports the waiver request, said President Dakota Draper.

“We think trying to improve teaching evaluation will improve the profession and help teachers become better,” he said. “We’ve got great teachers in North Dakota but there’s maybe some things we can look at and make things better.”

The state School Boards Association opposes the waiver, according to board member Kirsten Baesler, who also is a candidate to succeed Sanstead, who is retiring.

“I want relief from No Child Left Behind as much as anyone else. Although I’d like to see relief, I don’t believe (the waiver) provides the relief we want,” she said. “It replaces one set of rules and negative implications with another set of rules and negative implications.”

Tracy Potter, who is running against Baesler, said he thinks the federal education law is flawed but that “It may be that leaving No Child Left Behind in place is the best solution.”