Obama Frees 8 States from ‘No Child’ Education-Testing Rules

John Hechinger, Bloomberg, May 29, 2012

President Barack Obama freed eight states from provisions of the No Child Left Behind education- testing law after they pledged to turn around low-performing schools and tie teacher evaluations to student achievement.

Connecticut, DelawareLouisianaMaryland, New York, North CarolinaOhio and Rhode Island received waivers from the law, enacted under former President George W. Bush. In all, 19 states have now have been granted permission to sidestep the statute in exchange for agreeing to elements of the Obama administration’s education agenda.

Obama has pledged to change the 10-year-old No Child Left Behind Law, saying its focus on standardized-testing dumbs down teaching, narrows school curriculums and labels even high- achieving schools as failing.  {snip}

“States must show they are protecting children in order to get flexibility,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “These states met that bar.”

The states obtaining waivers would be exempt from the requirement that all students pass achievement tests by 2014—and make progress toward that goal each year—or risk losing federal funding. Under No Child Left Behind, each state establishes its own proficiency tests and determines what constitutes passing.

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In a conference call with reporters, Duncan said he still prefers that Congress reach a bipartisan agreement to rewrite the law—something it has been unable to do for five years.

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Almost half of U.S. public schools are considered failing under the No Child Left Behind law, according to a report in December by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based nonpartisan research group. The administration has cited the failure rate as a reason to offer states and local school authorities more flexibility.

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Obama previously excused 11 other states from the law: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

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Connecticut promised to increase the number of schools held accountable for the lagging performance of black and Hispanic students, as well as those with disabilities and those who speak English as a second language or come from low-income families. Fighting that “achievement gap” was a major focus of No Child Left Behind.

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