The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) sent a letter Thursday to President Barack Obama and top congressional members of both parties, urging Congress to pass and the president to sign a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act before the 2012-2013 school year begins.

The letter, signed by the CCSSO board of directors, which includes top school officials from Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Utah and West Virginia, said such action "is vital to interests of students, parents and citizens."

"Given NCLB's lack of alignment with the current landscape and waning public legitimacy," the letter said, referring to widespread movement among the states in education reform, "time is of the essence to establish a new federal framework that requires state leadership in college and career ready standards and transparent accountability while promoting state and local innovation and flexibility in how we achieve those goals."

CCSSO said that states would continue to seek waivers from certain requirements of No Child Left Behind (as outlined by the Obama administration) until a reauthorization bill is passed, but added that waivers "cannot be a substitute" for full reauthorization. The letter commended a reauthorization bill passed in October by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), which would discard the Adequate Yearly Progress system and ask states to establish their own accountability metrics.

The council also offered some additional recommendations as both chambers consider the Senate HELP committee's reauthorization bill:  

"Clarify the bill's requirement that all states must set meaningful performance targets for all schools and districts that include ambitious, achievable goals for closing achievement gaps." "Allow states to use a range of valid outcome measures for identifying their lowest performing schools." Expect "states to develop meaningful teacher and leader evaluation systems. States must develop these systems in collaboration with key stakeholders, but the expectation should be to develop the system within the state without prescription from the federal government." A copy of the letter is included below.