Ten states are now exempt from many No Child Left Behind requirements. But this temporary fix may distract Congress from creating long-term solutions.
President Obama announced Thursday that 10 states will receive waivers from some of the tougher provisions of No Child Left Behind -- including the requirement that all students demonstrate proficiency in reading and math by 2014 -- in exchange for implementing specific accountability reforms.
The states receiving the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In exchange for being released from some of the law's requirements, the states had to agree to use student testing data as a factor in evaluating teacher job performance, and to focus their efforts on reforming the lowest-performing campuses.
Janet Barresi, Oklahoma's schools superintendent and an elected Republican, told Education Week that "I almost hate to use the word 'waiver' because it sounds like we are relaxing things, when in fact it will allow us new flexibility to refocus and be proactive... I think this will be a game-changer in Oklahoma."
The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is more than four years overdue. Given the fiercely partisan mood on the Hill and the looming election cycle, there is little optimism for a speedy resolution. In the meantime, the provisions of NCLB, including the threat of sanctions for districts and states that consistently fail to meet achievement benchmarks, remain in place for the vast majority of the nation's public schools.
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"After waiting far too long for Congress to reform No Child Left Behind, my administration is giving states the opportunity to set higher, more honest standards in exchange for more flexibility," said President Obama at Thursday's press conference. "We're giving 10 states the green light to continue making reforms that are best for them."