OAKLAND -- The city's school district was released from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law that ties funding to test score improvements, a move officials praised and said will give them much more flexibility to improve the education of its 36,000 students.

Oakland was one of eight California school districts including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, Long Beach, Sanger and Santa Ana that applied for and received waivers to the federal law.

Superintendent Gary Yee said the district will continue to receive about $3 million in funds associated with the No Child Left Behind law but instead of requiring tests that show all students performing at their grade level in math and reading, Oakland will be able to incorporate accountability standards such as attendance and suspension rates, graduation rates, civic engagement and critical thinking, standards included in a new system called the Common Core.

More than 1 million students statewide will be affected by the waivers.

"There will be the same amount of money, but we will be able to have much more discretion on how to use the money that was set aside specifically for after-school programs," Yee said. "Under No Child Left Behind we were required to spend the money on outside providers for after-school programs."

Yee said the school district can now take that money and use it elsewhere. And that may be bad news for independent contractors who provide after-school program services, he said.

"Those are year-to-year contracts and we're currently evaluating them," Yee said. "We're suspending the active recruitment of children for those programs until we figure out how we're going to use the dollars. The question is: What is the best use of our money?"


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The current plan is to invest "heavily in the Common Core," Yee said. "It will also allow us to use the money in a more strategic way in our high priority schools that have a long way to go."

Contact Doug Oakley at 843-1408. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley