President Barack Obama announced on Friday that states will be allowed to opt out of some provisions in the No Child Left Behind law if they adopt his administration’s education agenda.
NCLB, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, requires that states show “adequate yearly progress” on annual student tests or else risk losing federal education funding. This has led some schools to “teach to the test” to get scores up and to ditch history and science classes to focus on math and reading instruction, the subjects that NCLB tests.
"Experience has taught us that, in its implementation, No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them," Obama said at a White House press conference announcing the waivers, Reuters reports.
"We can't let another generation of young people fall behind because we didn't have the courage to recognize what doesn't work, admit it and replace it with something that does," he said.
To qualify for the waivers, ABC News reports, a state must adopt “college and career-ready” academic standards, link teacher evaluations to student performance and create an accountability system that reports the lowest-performing schools and the largest achievement gaps.
In exchange, the New York Times reports, states can request to be released from 10 unpopular requirements contained in the law. These include bringing all students to proficiency in reading and math by 2014; using the No Child law’s pass-fail school report card system; and, for schools designated as “failing,” providing students with after-school tutoring and free bus transportation to better schools nearby.
Teachers unions welcomed the change. "Educators want common-sense measures of student progress, freedom to implement local ideas, respect for their judgment and the right to be a part of critical decisions," Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, told Reuters. "This plan delivers."
The relief won’t be immediate for most states. According to the New York Times:
Under the process administration officials described on Thursday, some states that apply for waivers this fall could be reviewed by the Education Department early next year, perhaps in time to make changes before they administer spring testing. For other states applying early next year, the waivers would probably not take effect until the 2012-13 school year.
Even in states granted waivers, many of the No Child law’s fundamental features would remain in effect, including the requirements that all schools administer reading and math tests every year, and release the scores to the public in a form that shows the progress made by minority groups and disabled students.