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   WASHINGTON (AP) - Millions of at-risk students could fall through the cracks as the Education Department gives states permission to ignore parts of No Child Left Behind, according to a study education advocates released Tuesday.

   The Education Department has been giving states waivers from the education law's requirements, including those to collect and publish data about students from poor families, students whose native language is not English, those with learning disabilities and minority students. The resulting patchwork of rules - from Miami to Seattle - has given states more freedom to implement plans to boost education but has allowed almost 2,300 schools to shed their label of seriously troubled, according to numbers compiled at the Campaign for High School Equity.

   "It appears to us that waivers could lead to fewer students of color receiving the support they need," said Rufina Hernandez, executive director for the Campaign for High School Equity.

   Her coalition of education reformers, civil rights activists and policy analysts studied the 34 states and the District of Columbia that had received waivers from No Child Left Behind before April. (Another six states and a collection of individual districts in California have won waivers since then.)

   The results show students who are at the highest risk of dropping out are often no longer tracked as carefully as they were before Education Secretary Arne Duncan began exempting states from some requirements if they promised to better prepare their students for college or careers.

   The Education Department had no immediate reaction to the study but Duncan has been vocal in calling for a rewrite of No Child Left Behind that would render his waivers moot.

   Under the original No Child Left Behind, schools that failed to teach at-risk students would be flagged if one group wasn't keeping pace. If one of the subgroups failed to meet its performance targets for two consecutive years, officials were required to stage an intervention to turn the entire school around.

   But the advocates' review finds those in-depth reporting requirements have fallen by the wayside under the waivers. An intervention is no longer automatically triggered in as many as 19 states, meaning those efforts that once were at the center of the law are now optional. In 16 states, student groups are lumped together and treated as one bloc of at-risk pupils, essentially scrapping the reporting of at-risk groups by label.

   The waivers make it easier to mask stumbles.

   "The No Child Left Behind system itself was far from perfect," said Phillip Lovell, vice president for federal advocacy with the Alliance for Excellent Education. "Where is succeeded was shining the spotlight on the subgroups."

   That spotlight now has dimmed, he said.

   Take, for instance, Ohio. In that state, 856 schools failed to meet their performance benchmarks for at-risk students two years in a row. Under the waiver Duncan approved, the number of schools called troubled schools fell to 445. Of that smaller sum, only 162 schools were deemed an urgent priority.

   That's not necessarily a bad thing, said Mike Petrilli, who has studied No Child Left Behind as a leader of the reform-minded Fordham Institute.

   "The waivers allow states to prioritize. We should be saving the toughest interventions for schools that have low proficiency and low progress," said Petrilli, a former official at the Education Department. "The spirit of the law is to make sure that kids don't get left behind."

   In all, 2,292 schools nationwide were deemed no longer needing special attention for improvement in states operating under waivers.

   Duncan's department can adjust this, though, when states return to the Education Department seeking to continue running their schools outside of No Child Left Behind's rules. Duncan's hall passes only last one year and states face the threat of returning to No Child Left Behind's requirements if they don't execute their improvements plans.

   "They can get stricter to make sure the accountability happens in states and trigger the interventions that were in place under No Child Left Behind," Hernandez said.

   In 2011, the Education Department announced that states could petition Duncan for waivers from No Child Left Behind's ambitious requirements, such as having all students read and count at grade level by 2014 or else risk their federal funding.

   In most cases, Duncan has agreed to their requests in exchange for promised improvements. Illinois, Iowa, Texas and Wyoming are still waiting for Duncan's verdict for their applications.

   Duncan had hoped the specter of waivers would compel Congress to update No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007 without renewal.

   "The same year that No Child Left Behind came out, the iPod came out," Petrilli said. "We're still on No Child Left Behind, version 1.0, and we've had new versions of the iPod, iPhone, iPad."

   Various rewrites of the law have been discussed but none has made its way to the White House for a president's signature. The Republican-led House has passed a version; a rewrite has been completed in the Senate education panel but no vote of the full body has been scheduled.

   "NCLB is six years overdue for an update, and nearly all agree that it should be replaced with a law that gives systems and educators greater freedom while continuing to fulfill the law's original promise," Duncan wrote in Sunday's Washington Post.

   "In the months ahead, I will ask Congress to listen to those doing the real work of education change," he added.

 
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   There's good news for drivers in north county.  Missouri transportation officials report that all lanes of westbound I-270 have reopened after a broken water main had shut it down for several hours.  

   Just before 10 o'clock Monday night police closed westbound I-270 because of the broken main at Old Halls Ferry.  The closure caused traffic to back up all the way into Illinois.  

   By 1 a.m. Tuesday, one lane had reopened.  

   At about 2:30 Tuesday morning, MoDOT reported that all lanes had reopened.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 00:10
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rams coach Jeff Fisher does not want the team's running backs to be judged solely on the preseason stats.

However, it doesn't mean he's not concerned about their production.

"That's an area where we need to improve on, but we haven't had opportunities in the games to really just line up," Fisher said after Monday's practice.

The Rams finish the preseason on Thursday against Baltimore.

The Rams are making a transition to a life without perennial 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson, who left via free agency to Atlanta.

They are averaging a little more than 3 yards a carry from their top four running backs, a year after the team ranked 19th in the league in yards per game with a 107.1 average.

Daryl Richardson, tabbed as the team's starter earlier this month, has 34 yards on nine carries in the first three games of the preseason.

"I feel pretty good about the running game," he said. "We've just got to execute and get better every day, all just be on the same page and eliminate penalties."

Richardson is coming off a rookie season in which he gained 475 yards on 98 carries in a backup role to Jackson.

Isaiah Pead's role might be more questionable. The second-year player out of Cincinnati carried the ball just 10 times in 2012 and is suspended for the 2013 season opener for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

He's had the most carries this preseason with 19, gaining 59 yards. He also has the only lost fumble by a running back.

"I've been trying to prove myself since I came here. Really, the only difference is that Steven's gone," Pead said. "I still come in, ready to work, trying to find a spot on the team whether it be special team or offense."

The Rams game at Denver last Saturday was another missed chance for the running backs to get work.

St. Louis planned to work on its running attack, only to change as the game unfolded.

Lineman Rodger Saffold, returning from a shoulder injury that limited his work leading up to the game, lasted the entire first half after it was anticipated he might only play a handful of snaps.

The Rams have also wanted to focus on their passing game and this year's top draft choice Tavon Austin and third-rounder Stedman Bailey at receiver. Fisher wants to enhance the downfield options for quarterback Sam Bradford.

He said if that part of the game develops, it can only serve to help his young running backs, that includes two second-year players and two rookies in the top four on the depth chart.

That has limited the chances for rookies Zac Stacy, a fifth-round choice from Vanderbilt, and Benny Cunningham, from Middle Tennessee State who signed as an undrafted free agent. But both should play a role in the upcoming season.

How much might be determined Thursday.

"I think you'll probably see some more," Fisher said. "''We'll get a chance to look at them this week. With Isaiah not being available to us in Week 1, we'll have to look at all the backs."

NOTES: TE Cory Harkey could miss up to a month with a fracture in his leg suffered Saturday at Denver. The second-year player got significant time during the preseason as top TE Lance Kendricks recovers from offseason knee surgery. ...The Rams announced 11 cuts as they close in on Tuesday's deadline to reduce the roster to the NFL-mandated 75 players. St. Louis released K/P Brett Baer, WR Demetrius Fields, WR Andrew Helmick, LS Jorgen Hus, QB Tim Jenkins, DT Al Lapuaho, LB Joseph Lebeau, TE Colby Prince, WR Raymond Radway and CB Robert Steeples.

Monday, 26 August 2013 22:55
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Allen Craig hit his first career grand slam with two out in the seventh inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals rally for an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.

Matt Holliday also had a long three-run homer as St. Louis moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central for the first time since July 29. The Cardinals lead idle Pittsburgh by a half-game and Cincinnati by 3 1/2 games in the top-heavy division.

Rookie Carlos Martinez (1-1) pitched two innings for his first major league win and Edward Mujica worked a perfect ninth for his 35th save.

Zack Cozart had two hits and three RBIs for the Reds, who dropped to 4-9 against St. Louis this season. Jay Bruce hit his 25th homer in the eighth.

Cozart and Todd Frazier each hit a two-run triple off Tyler Lyons in the second, helping Cincinnati to a 4-0 lead. But Holliday belted a three-run drive deep to left in the third.

Holliday's 18th homer came against Mike Leake and traveled an estimated 443 feet for the longest shot by a St. Louis player at Busch Stadium this season.

The Cardinals went ahead to stay in the seventh. Jon Jay drove in a run with a bases-loaded grounder off Manny Parra (1-3). J.J. Hoover then came in and walked Holliday on a full-count pitch and Craig drove the next pitch over the wall in right for his 13th homer.

The crowd of 35,159 roared as Craig rounded the bases. The big first baseman then came out for a curtain call.

Bruce connected against Seth Maness, but that was it for Cincinnati, which lost for the third time in four games.

Lyons settled down after the rough start and was charged with one earned run in five innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

Leake allowed five runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. The right-hander is 1-1 with an unseemly 5.20 ERA in his last six starts.

NOTES: Joe Kelly (5-3, 3.01 ERA) will face Cincinnati's Mat Latos (13-4, 2.93 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series on Tuesday. Latos is 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break. ... The Cardinals are 24-3-2 in home series against Cincinnati since the start of the 2003 season.

Monday, 26 August 2013 22:52
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