CHARLESTON, W.Va. - They might not be immediately noticeable to students, but major changes are coming to education in West Virginia.
On Monday, the federal Department of Education granted West Virginia's request for a waiver that will free them from much of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. The result is an overhaul of the state's method of appraising schools' success and failure.
A lot of what is laid out in the state's flexibility request - a 440-page behemoth of a document that took months to compile - is tied up in the bureaucratic mechanisms that govern education in West Virginia. But the effects are sure to be far-reaching and influential.
Since 2001, education accountability standards in West Virginia, as in the rest of the country, have been governed by No Child Left Behind - the controversial 2001 federal education law.
When it was signed into law, No Child Left Behind revamped education in the United States, but critics say it doles out too-harsh penalties when schools fail to meet goals that are largely seen as unattainable. It's been up for renewal since 2007, but Congress has failed to act.
In 2007 the Obama administration announced it would begin granting states waivers, allowing them to take exception to most of No Child Left Behind. To get that permission, they must develop their own plans for holding schools, teachers and students accountable. That plan is what West Virginia had approved Monday.
States who apply for a waiver have to pay attention to three principles: college and career-ready expectations for students; state-developed ways to measure accountability and support; and support for effective instruction and leadership.
The crux of West Virginia's waiver request lies in the second principal - state officials had to develop their own system for holding schools and school systems accountable for their performance.
The centerpiece of that plan is a new system for identifying a school's level of performance. Under No Child Left Behind schools were said to have made "adequate yearly progress" or not. Now, they will fall into one of five classifications: priority, support, focus, transition and success.