Obama to Allow States to Opt out of 'No Child Left Behind'

The education law known as No Child Left Behind has some new flexibility, President Barack Obama announced today, in that states can now opt out of some of the law's elements if they meet certain requirements.  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act's Flexibility program will allow states to receive waivers protecting them from federal sanctions if their schools do not perform up to the law's standards.

Ultimately, Obama said in a statement, the changes are meant to free troubled schools to find ways other than standardized testing to raise achievement levels in their classrooms, if those schools do not meet the law's rigorous standards.  "The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level," he said.

Under the plan Obama outlined, states can ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law's requirements if they meet certain conditions, such as imposing standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.

Despite allowing states to do away with the approaching 2014 deadline, Obama insisted he was not weakening the law, but rather helping states set higher standards. He said that the current law was forcing educators to teach to the test, give short shrift to subjects such as history and science, and lower standards as a way to avoid penalties and stigmas.

To qualify for a waiver, states would have to show they had a plan to help low-performing schools. A majority of states are expected to apply for waivers, which will be given to qualified states early next year.


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