Two years ago, Minnesota was freed from the much loathed shackles of No Child Left Behind, the federal education benchmark law that many believed took a punitive approach to struggling schools.

Now, it's time for the state to renew its waiver and it's already received preliminary approval from the U.S. Department of Education, state education officials announced Wednesday.

In fact, federal education officials have indicated the current waiver passes muster and won't require the Minnesota Department of Education to do much more than notify them of planned changes.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said that the department is intending to hold schools to a higher threshold of accountability under a new waiver.

Under the original waiver, schools needed more than 40 students in one subgroup (minority student, English language learners, students living in poverty) to be held accountable for meeting established targets. Revisions to the waiver would reduce the minimum to 20 students in one subgroup.

"We're raising our expectations," Cassellius said. "The bar just go higher, and now more kids count - that's a good thing."

The deadline for Minnesota to submit its letter stating its intention to renew the waiver is due by Feb. 28.