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Feds offering relief from NCLB requirements

August 8, 2011

Citing the need for flexibility, federal education officials say they plan to offer waivers on some of the key provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act, a signature policy of the George W. Bush administration.

Districts around the country have been waiting for Congress to take some action on the bill, which is up for re-authorization this year. NCLB is widely credited with ushering in an era of more standardized testing as states raced to comply with new requirements that they test students annually and meet specific score targets or face sanctions.

Critics of the measure say it penalizes schools and teachers, instead of offering help to the neediest students. The Obama Administration has proposed continuing some of the accountability measures in NCLB but shifting the focus more toward college-readiness. The Washington Post reports that some political observers are questioning whether the Obama Administration has the legal authority to override a law passed by Congress, even if they agree that the law is “dysfunctional.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says schools and districts will only be granted flexibility if they show that they “are willing to embrace education reform.” Full details on the proposal are expected in September. According to The New York Times, the waiver requirements will likely be very similar to the criteria for federal Race to the Top grants, which Rhode Island has already succeeded in winning.

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