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State asks for ed waiver; Hill says it's a mistake

Mar 1, 2013 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Department of Education is seeking a waiver from federal education requirements.

The request for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act was submitted on Thursday.

The request comes four days after Gov. Matt Mead met with U.S. Education Department officials about whether Wyoming should seek relief from so-called Adequate Yearly Progress targets.

But Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill said the waiver is both unnecessary and risky. Her duties as head of the Wyoming Department of Education were stripped by legislative action a few weeks ago.

State Education Department interim director Jim Rose says Wyoming school districts appreciate the request for relief from some of the most restrictive requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Without the waiver, Rose said, Wyoming students would be required to score proficient or advanced in reading, math and science on next year's statewide student assessment.

Hill said that's not true.

She said she contacted senior staff members at the U.S. Department of Education this week and was told that Wyoming schools would face no penalties if the state did not obtain a waiver. She said she was also told that there are no penalties attached to a state's decision not to seek a waiver, nor are federal funding cuts being considered in response to school performance.

Hill also noted that a waiver would impose many federal regulations on Wyoming's schools, including the linking of student performance directly to teacher evaluation. She pointed out that the Legislature, during its recent general session, decided to postpone linking student performance to teacher evaluation for at least two years because of the difficulty in constructing a valid system to accomplish this linking.

"I question why a waiver is being pursued at this time when the Legislature in this very session shifted its focus away from some the requirements of an ESEA waiver," she said.

Before the request, Wyoming was one of six states without a waiver being considered or granted.

The disagreement is the latest between Hill and the governor. The legislation to remove her from WDE authority generate intense controversy during the legislative session, and Hill has filed suit to halt the law. She also has announced that she will run for governor herself next year.

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