The option to average test scores to let schools pass No Child Left Behind is on top of the State Board of Education's wish list of changes to No Child Left Behind requirements that they will be submitting to federal officials.

Each year the Utah State Board of Education submits AYP amendment requests to the U.S. Department of Education, including annual updates and improvements to Utah's AYP workbook, which is the state's blueprint for meeting the federal law.

And while the state has been denied some amendments in the past, leaders hope that growing flexibility will allow for some of the provisions.

"When you look at the history of NCLB, the Department of Education has shown some increased flexibility every year — currently they are approving amendments that they have denied in past years," said Judy Park, associate superintendent for data, assessment and accountability for the State Office of Education.

"So as they are becoming a little more flexible, our hope is that they will be more willing to approve them."

First and foremost the state school board wants to be able to average up to three years of test scores to let schools pass under No Child Left Behind. Last year a number of schools were able to meet the federal standard because of test-score averaging, but last month both the feds and the State Board of Education indicated the practice was not allowed because it was not in the workbook. But the Department of Education did invite the state to apply to include it in the workbook if seen fit.

No Child Left Behind requires all students, regardless of race, income, disability or language proficiency, to read and do math well by 2014.

School districts have to report schools' progress toward that goal. Schools where one group of students misses the mark are identified as not making adequate yearly progress (AYP). Low-income or Title I schools that repeatedly fail to make AYP face sanctions, along with averaging Utah, will be asking the feds for a number of provisions that have been repeatedly denied.

Under current law, schools in the first year of school improvement — failing to make AYP two years in a row — must offer a students school choice option and transportation to a school that is meeting the mark, as well as provide supplemental education services.

Utah education leaders want schools to be able to offer either one or the other in the first year. Then in the second year of school improvement they would be required to offer both.

Utah will also again be asking to only require schools on the "school improvement" list to provide supplemental services and school choice to non-proficient students. Students in those schools who are scoring proficient on standardized tests would not have the option to transfer or receive remediation and other services.

Both provisions have been denied repeatedly.

State education leaders also want to tweak how the "school improvement" designation is made. School designations are based on the performance of student subgroups — such as low-income students or minority students. If any of the subgroups fail to meet federal benchmarks in any area, then the whole school fails to meet AYP. And if it happens two years in a row then the school is put in program improvement.

But Utah leaders want the designation based on the same subgroup failing to make AYP in the same subject area for two consecutive years.

That proposal has also been repeatedly rejected.

Next week the Accountability Advisory Committee will provide the final review of the 2008 requested amendments and AYP workbook submissions. The application will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by the middle of February.

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