The waiver, presented late Tuesday afternoon, includes a provision that would base student performance on a "college and career ready index" versus Adequate Yearly Progress and Criterion Reference Competency Tests scores.
"[The college and career ready index] is looking at the full scope of work that schools do to prepare them for college and careers. The testing is still a part of it, but no longer does the test become the single indicator of the school's performance," Barge said. "We're looking at graduation rates, we're looking at attendance rates, we're looking at readiness for post-secondary [education].
"The assessment becomes a part of [the index]. For example, students who are earning industry recognized credentials while still in high school, students who are passing advanced placement tests and earning college credit while still in high school, all of those are indicators that give schools points to an overall score, and that overall score will determine whether or not that school is making the progress they need to making to be sure our students are college and career ready."
Barge said an official press release detailing the index should be available today, but provided some information on the concepts behind the index.
"Each index is aligned vertically, so the elementary index, when you look at those indicators, you're going to be looking at subject competency and subject mastery on several different levels," Barge said. "In elementary and middle there is an emphasis on reading, and reading on grade level by third grade and by fifth grade in elementary school, and reading on grade level by eighth grade in middle school, and those are measured by Lexile [scoring systems]," Barge said.
He said other indicators will vary, but have emphasis on students on each level being prepared to progress.
Isakson was one of the original author's of NCLB, implemented during the George W. Bush administration. He said he believes in NCLB has been successful in areas but there needed to be improvements.
"The initial intent of the law, President Bush felt like our Title 1 children, our free and reduced lunch children, rural poor and inner city poor were the poorest performing in reading comprehension and mathematics, which are two key achievements you need to move forward in public education and in life," Isakson said. "It developed an assessment system in testing requiring disaggregation of students by race, by sex, by ethnicity, by many other different categories including disability, measured the performance of those students both individually and collectively within the disaggregated group.
"... In our state of Georgia, the majority of free and reduced lunch kids have performed better over the nine years of NCLB in reading comprehension and in mathematics, which brings us to the next plateau for development, which is this waiver."
Barge also said in the conference it was time to move forward with student assessment criteria as there has been a performance increase in many subgroups across the state.
"There's an awful lot you can hide when you aggregate data, but when you are required to separate out the subgroups, there were some glaring deficiencies there and we have been working for years on closing those achievement gaps and raising student performance levels in our subgroups and we've made tremendous progress, but now it's time to go to the next step," Barge said. "What we have done with No Child Left Behind is focus on a test given on a single given day in time and we have prepared children to pass a test ... we have students now passing tests that are not ready for college and they're not ready for the world."
Barge, who became superintendent in 2011, said the waiver has been under development for about a year.
"What we have done is the council of chief state school officers in conjunction with working with the superintendents from each state, put together some broad, over-arching principals they submitted to [Duncan] and to Congress for the next generation of accountability plans and what they should include, so we did actually use those guiding principals kind of as a framework to make sure that our index addressed all those principals," Barge said.
He said the index will not change schools that fall under Needs Improvement status and will look at other ways to improve performance.
"What we are doing is redesigning how we address those schools in need and that is going to be where the original [NCLB] law was not very specific as far as if you had to provide services you had to provide them for everyone who needed them, but there was no specificity on which students and how," Barge said. "And so in our request we are prepared with the data we have to give more specific guided help to schools for specific students in areas of specific needs to hopefully move that barometer for them quicker than an outside provider who might not know the data and know the specifics of each individual student to know what he or she needs."
Read Thursday's The Daily Tribune News for an update on the state's NCLB waiver and comments from local school systems.