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More States Ask For NCLB Waivers

“No-Child Law Faces Wave of Opt-Outs”
By Stephanie Banchero
Wall Street Journal
February 29, 2012

Twenty-six more states asked to be excused from key requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, an exemption that would curb the education law’s impact considerably.

The states, from Washington to Mississippi to New York, were joined by the District of Columbia. Last month, the Obama administration granted waivers for all 11 states that applied in the first round. If it grants waivers to all the new applicants, three quarters of the states would be exempt.

Signed into law with bipartisan support in 2002, No Child Left Behind is now reviled by Republicans, who say it gets the federal government too involved in education, and by Democrats, who complain that its rigid definitions of performance have seen almost half the nation’s schools listed as failures. But Congress has been unable to agree on an overhaul. In response, the administration decided to let states get around central tenets of the law, such as ensuring that 100% of students pass reading and math exams by 2014.

Republicans have complained that the exemptions usurp congressional authority. On Tuesday, Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved two bills that Chairman John Kline (R., Minn.) said aim to “shrink federal intrusion in classrooms and return responsibility for student success to states and school districts.”

States seeking waivers have to adopt education policies favored by the administration, such as linking teacher evaluations to student test scores and adopting college- and career-ready standards. In exchange, they can create their own targets for annual student achievement and craft their own policies to help the lowest-performing schools.

“The best ideas to meet the needs of individual students are going to come from the local level,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. These applications will “give states the freedom to implement reforms that improve student achievement.”

The other states that applied for a waiver in the latest round are Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Department of Education said it plans to make a formal decision on the latest requests in the spring. The administration has set a Sept. 6 deadline for additional states to apply for relief from the law.

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