More than half the U.S. states have now received waivers from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the key education legislation passed during the administration of George W. Bush. President Barack Obama announced last week that the waiver applications of Washington state and Wisconsin have been approved, and ten more states and the District of Columbia are still awaiting decisions on applications submitted earlier.
In order to gain approval for exemption from several assessment provisions of the act, in their applications, the states must submit an alternative plan to eventually meet similar metrics, and make sure that their high school graduates are college- or career-ready. The Obama administration said in 2011 that it will start granting such exemptions to states after Congress failed to act to reauthorize NCLB. The U.S. Department of Education approved the first set of waivers in February 2012. So far, the administration has approved all waiver applications except Iowa’s, which was denied because student achievement metrics weren’t part of the new state-proposed teacher evaluation system.
President Obama issued a statement to accompany the latest set of waivers, saying that they are a good first step to giving states more control over how they improve their own education systems.
“It is a remarkable milestone that in only five months, more than half of the states in the country have adopted state-developed, next-generation education reforms to improve student learning and classroom instruction, while ensuring that resources are targeted to the students that need them most,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “A strong, bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act remains the best path forward in education reform, but as 26 states have now demonstrated, our kids can’t wait any longer for Congress to act.”
Although nearly 2/3 of the states have either been granted a waiver or are awaiting a decision on a pending application, 14 states and Puerto Rico have yet to request to be excused from meeting the next set of NCLB requirements. these requirements would have them either making sure that all their students are at grade level for math and reading by 2014, or face serious upheaval, that could include either a wholesale replacement of instructional staff or having schools taken over by private education contractors.
The states which have yet to apply, which include Alabama, Michigan, Kansas and Nevada, among others, have until September 6th of this year to submit the applications and their accompanying reform plans in order to qualify for the next round of waivers.