California districts seek to extend waiver of education law 

Six of California's largest urban school districts have applied for a waiver freeing them from requirements of the nation's No Child Left Behind education law.

Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Ana unified school districts applied Tuesday for a three-year extension of a waiver first granted in 2013 to a coalition of California districts after the state chose not to request a waiver.

The U.S. Department of Education began granting waivers to the Bush-era law in 2012 as talks to reauthorize No Child Left Behind stalled in Congress. The law required all students to test proficient in math and reading by 2014 or face a series of interventions.

The waivers, which have been granted to 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, free districts from some of the law's requirements in exchange for developing new accountability plans and targets for raising achievement.

California's CORE districts created a school improvement system emphasizing support and technical assistance rather than punitive actions.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education placed the CORE districts' waiver on "high risk" status for falling short in two areas: implementing the final version of its school accountability plan and deciding on new teacher and principal evaluations that take into account student growth.

The evaluations are a point of contention in the ongoing talks between Los Angeles Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles.

In the letter sent to the Education Department requesting a waiver, CORE executive director Rick Miller said Los Angeles Unified and the teachers union would continue to work on the new evaluations that include at least three levels of performance.

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