The Obama Administration is offering states ways to circumvent provisions of the No Child Lew Behind Law, according to the Associated Press, saying that certain provisionshave done more harm than good in improving schools.
To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with educational reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change, Obama said in a statement Thursday. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level.
States now can ask for exemptions from some requirements if certain conditions are met. The AP reports that those include enacting standards helping prepare students for college and/or the workforce and holding teachers and principals more accountable.
The No Child Left Behind law was passed in 2001 with bipartisan support and was considered by then-President George W. Bush as a major domestic policy achievement. The law intended to create more accountability through standardized testing requirements. Also, it gave students in failing schools flexibility to attend other institutions and gave access to more tutoring.
However, some educators complain that the law as being too focused on testing. Critics contend-among other things-that the law requires too much teaching to the test and may foster cheating struggling schools. Furthermore, the law classifies many schools as failing, even if test scores show strong improvements from previous years, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan points to as a justification for the exemption.
According to the Washington Post, nearly one-third of schools in Maryland were considered failing under the law in 2010-while in Virginia and Washington D.C., 40 percent and 91 percent of schools were classified as failing, respectively. Both Maryland and Virginia plan to apply for waivers, while D.C. said that they were considering applying.
Some are worried that the law will hinder progress in struggling schools. Margaret Spellings, who served as domestic policy adviser and Education Secretary under Bush, said she was worried the waiver would allow schools to fall through the cracks.
I'm skeptical about states' ability or will to do great reform or close the achievement gap, Spellings told the Washington Post. The reason this whole waiver issue is before us is [the states] told us they were going to do something and didn't do it. And now they want a waiver against their own promises.
We need more accountability, not less, Spellings continued. Implicit in this situation is the idea that it's unreasonable to expect children to perform on grade level and we need to find a way to let the adults get out of that.
Congress is currently working on overhauling the law.