Another 26 states have sought federal waivers to exempt them from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, underscoring a widespread belief that President George W. Bush's landmark education overhaul has failed.
Congress hasn't managed to update the 2001 law, which mandates penalties for schools that fail to achieve 100 percent proficiency among students on math and science exams. That goal is largely seen as unattainable, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned last June of a slow-motion train wreck in which a majority of America's schools are deemed to be failing.
Hoping to avoid that result, President Barack Obama's administration has offered waivers that would free states of some of No Child Left Behind's more onerous provisions. To get an exemption, a state must submit an application in which it promises to implement education-reform goals prized by the current White House, by adopting career- and college-readiness standards, detailing how it will deal with struggling schools, and formulating ways to measure teacher effectiveness using, in part, student test scores.
The Education Department has already approved all 11 applications for waivers from the first round of states that sought them, suggesting that many, if not all, of the 26 latest applicants will be granted waivers.
Although No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 with broad bipartisan support, Republicans have reversed course and begun denouncing the law as an unwarranted expansion of federal power. Republicans in the House of Representatives advanced a pair of bills on Tuesday that would scale back the government's role in education, and both presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have disavowed previous support for No Child Left Behind.
Despite the view of many educators and public officials that No Child Left Behind hasn't yielded the results its supporters promised, Republicans have criticized Obama's waiver plan, saying he is circumventing Congress. The president contends that he is acting to provide needed relief in the absence of a fix from Congress.
The 26 states that are now applying for waivers are Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, along with the District of Columbia. The 11 previously approved were Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.