Maryland will not be one of the first states to apply for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, state education officials said Thursday.

Last month, President Barack Obama said he would offer states that have embraced his administration's key education reform initiatives a break from the most rigid requirements of the law.

The sweeping changes would allow states like Maryland, which is considered well-positioned to receive approval, the chance to put in place their own accountability systems.

Maryland will apply by Feb. 1, the deadline for the second round, according to Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state education department.

Reinhard said the state wants more time to get input from education advocates, superintendents, parents, teachers and school boards across the state before the application is filed.

Maryland appears to have already met most of the conditions that Obama has set. The state, however, must decide what type of accountability system it will propose to fill the vacuum left when the NCLB targets are eliminated.

"We continue to believe in accountability. We are looking at the best way to take the next step," Reinhard said.

Seventeen states have indicated to the U.S. Department of Education that they will file an application for a waiver by the first deadline, which is Nov. 15, according to Education Week. They were to receive word shortly after the new year about whether they have received one.

While Maryland would still have to set standards and give schoolchildren annual tests, the rigid targets that schools are required to meet would disappear if the waiver is granted. Under the current law, every student in the country was expected to be proficient in both math and reading by 2014. Every year, more schools have not been able to meet the increasingly difficult targets.

About one-third of Maryland schools have been labeled as failing, and that group was expected to grow significantly in the next two years. Eventually, the state would have required major changes — removing teachers and principals, and overhauling programs — even in schools that are considered top performers but where a handful of special-education or minority students fail tests.

Congress has been unable to agree on how to rewrite the NCLB law.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts