By Joseph Harkins
The federal government is giving a second chance to eight states that were at-risk of losing federal funding for not meeting education standards enacted in the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, Tuesday, that he has approved waivers for Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.
Those states were granted waivers or “more flexibility” in exchange for promises to turn around low-performing schools and tie teacher evaluations to student achievement. Education officials said 26 states and Washington, D.C., had applied for waivers. Overall, 19 states have been issued waivers.
"These eight additional states are getting more flexibility with federal funds and relief from NCLB's one-size-fits-all federal mandates in order to develop locally tailored solutions to meet their unique educational challenges," said Duncan.
At the announcement in Connecticut, Duncan noted that many of the new state-created accountability systems capture more students at-risk including low-income students, students with disabilities and English learners.
"States must show they are protecting children in order to get flexibility, he said. “These states met that bar."
Congress is in the process of rewriting the decade-old law, which has been up for renewal since 2007. The waivers are designed as a stop-gap measure until federal lawmakers can settle upon an agreement.
President Obama has pledged to change the 10-year-old No Child Left Behind Law, because he believes its focus on standardized-testing “dumbs-down” teaching, narrows curriculums and labels even high-achieving schools as failing.
The states getting 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.
In a Center on Education Policy report last year, the Washington-based nonpartisan research group concluded that half of the nation’s schools were failing the federal No Child Left Behind law, prompting the Obama administration’s call for more flexibility.
Obama previously excused Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico Oklahoma and Tennessee from the law.