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So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Los Angeles, Long Beach schools want longer exemption to federal laws

A teacher welcomes pupils in a classroom at David Johnston primary school on September 4, 2012.
A teacher welcomes pupils in a classroom at David Johnston primary school on September 4, 2012. Pierre Andrieu/Getty Images

A coalition of seven California school districts - including Los Angeles Unified, Long Beach Unified and Santa Ana Unified -  have asked the federal government to renew a first-of-its-kind exemption to No Child Left Behind rules granted last year.

While the U.S. Department of Education has given dozen of states permission to ignore No Child Left Behind, last year was the first time it allowed an exemption to a smaller group of school districts.

The No Child Left Behind's target benchmarks - a key part of the 2001 law - are considered unrealistic by most. It requires all children to be proficient at grade-level math and English by this year. It also set yearly targets for student sub-populations. Those that failed to meet targets faced expensive consequences, including having to provide tutoring.

The waiver removed some rules for how the local districts could use more than $100 million in federal funds.

Teachers unions at those California districts - which also include San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno and Sanger - opposed the waiver, saying they were not consulted.

In the original waiver request, granted last August, the seven districts called themselves the California Office to Reform Education and pledged to revamp their teacher evaluation systems to include student test scores among other changes the federal government was demanding of states that had asked for waivers. The coalition wrote a teacher and principal evaluation handbook that’s designed as a guide to for school districts.

"Our teachers and principals are committed to continuous learning and professional growth," said Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District said in a written statement sent out by the coalition.  "The School Quality Improvement System's professional evaluations will be based on multiple measures chosen at the local level to determine how an educator is doing, and most importantly, what we can do to help them improve."   

The districts also said they want to continue a reform program called School Quality Improvement System that’s designed to build students' interpersonal skills, raise test scores, and improve the learning environment.

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