WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has approved seven more requests for waivers from the No Child Left Behind law, recognizing the continued inability of states to live up to lofty standards that have caused thousands of schools to be marked as failing.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Arizona, Oregon, South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi and the District of Columbia would join 26 states already exempt from key provisions in the law.
The law was supposed to force schools to be accountable by raising education expectations and setting a goal for all students to be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Critics have faulted the law for its reliance on standardized tests and unrealistic standards.
Ben Cannon, education policy adviser to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, called the law’s target scores “arbitrary” and said No Child Left Behind sanctions would have cost Oregon millions of dollars.
In 2011, 48 percent of the nation’s public schools failed to reach No Child Left Behind testing targets, the highest percentage considered failing since President George W. Bush signed the law in 2002, according to a study by the Center on Education Policy.
Congress has not revised the education law. President Barack Obama called on Congress to rework the law in 2011, and began issuing waivers in February after Congress failed to reach an agreement to update it.
To qualify for waivers, states must enact federal standards that include ensuring that students are college and career ready, focusing aid on the neediest students and evaluating teachers and principals, in part by using student test scores. While the standards still use test scores as a component of evaluations, they are less stringent than No Child Left Behind, which used scores to rate and apply penalties to schools and districts that didn’t meet testing expectations.