Atlanta • Another eight states are gaining flexibility from the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday.
The Education Department has approved waivers for Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. Eighteen other states and Washington, D.C., also applied for a waiver and could receive approval in coming weeks.
President Barack Obama’s administration is granting waivers in exchange for promises from states to improve how they prepare and evaluate students. In all, 19 states have been given waivers so far.
"These states are getting more flexibility with federal funds and relief from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all mandate in order to develop and implement locally tailored solutions to meet their unique educational challenges," Duncan said in a call with reporters.
He made the announcement in Connecticut, where lawmakers recently passed legislation that overhauls how the state deals with the lowest performing schools. That overhaul requires annual performance evaluations for principals, administrators and teachers, and links tenure to a teacher’s effectiveness.
"I think today signaled a change in our application, a change in our ability to compete with other states, a change which marks our dedication to doing in our state that which we know will work," Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. MaIloy, said at a ceremony with Duncan at the state Capitol.
The waivers are a stopgap measure until Congress rewrites the decade-old law, which has been up for renewal since 2007. Federal lawmakers agree the law needs to be changed, but they’ve bickered over how to do that.
The states that won waivers earlier this year are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The waivers throw out that fundamental requirement, provided states offer a viable alternative plan.
Under the deal, the states must show they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.
Obama has called former President George W. Bush’s most hyped domestic accomplishment an admirable but flawed effort that hurt students instead of helping them. Republicans have charged Obama is overreaching his authority by granting waivers and is imposing his vision for education on states.
"This plan does not constitute the long-term reform families, schools, and students need. It’s a temporary Band-Aid on a problem that must be resolved through legislation," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee.
States have been asking for relief from the law as the 2014 deadline neared.
"The waiver lets New York move away from NCLB requirements that were unproductive or unrealistic," state Education Commissioner John B. King said in a prepared statement. "We’re making a new set of promises to our students. Now we have to live up to those promises."
Duncan said the Obama administration prefers that Congress fix the law but insisted students can’t wait for that. In an election year in a divided Congress, that appears unlikely to happen.
Associated Press writers Stephen Singer and Michael Melia in Hartford, Conn., and Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.
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