The U.S. Department of Education approved Missouri’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver giving the state flexibility from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements.

The waiver allows Missouri to use its own accountability system, provides more flexibility in resource spending, implements higher academic standards, and focuses on school improvement, according to Terri A. Parks, Meramec Valley School District assistant superintendent, who reported on the waiver at the July 18 school board meeting.

The waiver goes into effect immediately for the 2012-13 school year, with implementation and phase-in throughout the year.

While the waiver brings some useful changes to public school administration, Meramec Valley’s strategy will still be recognizable to parents and to students, according to Superintendent Randy George.

Administrators can breathe a sigh of relief that the district no longer has to report to parents about the state’s “needs progress” labels based on the Average Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings as required by No Child Left Behind, but it will not change the intensity of the curriculum or teachers.

“The labels were all about the subgroups,” George said. “While there is some relief at not having to send out the letters, we’re going to work just as hard to provide the best education possible for all the groups.”

The district will send a letter to all parents explaining the waiver and other changes.

Another visible benefit to the district is relief from the school choice element of No Child Left Behind.

“In 2011-12, Meramec Valley was required to offer public school choice to students in Title I schools labeled for improvements,” Parks said. “This sanction is lifted.

“The four students who took advantage of public school choice last year may continue to do so through their fifth-grade year, but the district is no longer required to pay for transportation,” Parks added. “This waiver benefit allows the district to use this additional Title I set-aside money for continued improvements in instruction and not for public school choice.”

Parks also said plans will be made to bring a committee together during the 2012-13 school year to review teacher and administrator evaluation tools to see if they meet the required standards.

George said the district has always evaluated curriculum looking at each student and each group of students to determine the best approach. From the students working with IEPs to the free and reduced lunch students to those in the athletic program and to high school students who are taking college classes while in high school, the district strives to provide excellent education, he said.

“The student’s success comes first with us,” George stated.