President Obama announced today that he is freeing 10 states from the central requirements of the “No Child Left Behind” education law in exchange for promising to adopt higher standards and reform the way they evaluate students.
“If you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards,” the president said. “We combine greater freedom with greater accountability.”
Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee have all been exempt from meeting the 2014 NCLB targets in exchange for embracing reforms that the White House deems necessary. To qualify states must adopt “college and career-ready” standards, link teacher evaluations to student performance, and create an accountability system to reward their best schools and report their lowest-performing ones.
The president said he was giving these states “the green light to continue making the reforms that are best for them,” explaining that “if we’re serious about helping our children reach their full potential, the best ideas aren’t going to just come from here in Washington.”
As currently written, the Bush-era law allows states to set their own goals for academic success, but they risk losing federal education funding if their students fail to show “adequate yearly progress.” Critics, including Obama, say this system encourages states to “dummy down” standards to report better progress.
“The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones,” Obama said. “We’ve got to stay focused on those goals. But we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures. That doesn’t help anybody, certainly doesn’t help our children in the classroom.”
Eleven states requested waivers after the president announced last September that he would allow states flexibility from the strict mandates of the law. New Mexico, the eleventh state in the first round, had an “incomplete” application but continues to work with the White House.
Twenty-eight other states along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have indicated their intent to seek flexibility.