States Offered Waivers From No Child Left Behind Bill

The Obama Administration announced Monday that it plans to start giving states waivers from the No Child Left Behind education reform bill. Congress is stalled on re-authorizing the federal education law, and many states are having trouble meeting the law’s standards for Adequate Yearly Progress. The original goal of No Child Left Behind was for all students to be proficient in basic reading and math by 2014. With that deadline approaching, states are finding that more difficult than anticipated, particularly for special needs students.

Melody Barnes, the Chairwoman of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said the administration can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to act to reform No Child Left Behind.

The announcement Monday contained no specifics about what the terms will be. But in general, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, they will begin giving waivers to states that propose their own ways of meeting standards. They will announce more details next month. Alaska Education Department spokesman Eric Frye said the state will “certainly be interested,” but he couldn’t comment further without knowing more details.

The terms of No Child Left Behind require the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement to escalate each year, and that’s increasing the number of failing schools. Alaska and a number of other states have said they can show progress but want to use different standards, known as “growth,” or “trend” models. Secretary Duncan said he would be open to that.

Duncan said he hopes this can be a transition or bridge to a new education law, but re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is already four years overdue.

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