The U.S. Department of Education has granted Texas a waiver from certain requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, and state will get a reprieve from some of the standardized testing-based accountability standards, reports The Associated Press.
No Child Left Behind was implemented in 2002 with the goal of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014. The law was the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush, who modeled many of the changes it implemented nationwide on the practices of his home state while he was the governor of Texas.
The program's benchmarks have gotten harder to reach each year, and federal education officials suggested that waivers would give states more leeway to improve how they prepare and evaluate students.
According to the Department, a waiver was issued in exchange for a state plan to prepare students for college and careers. Similar waivers have been issued to 41 states and the District of Columbia as the next incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act remains on hold. Despite being up for renewal since 2007, Congress has not addressed ESEA/No Child Left Behind, prompting the Obama administration to issue waivers to states eager to move on with education policy.
Texas has long said it would like the flexibility of a waiver but that it was reluctant to seek one because of fears that the federal government could attach strings to it. Still, Education Commissioner Michael Williams reversed course last September and asked for a waiver.
Williams said the waiver will no longer require Texas' 1,200 public school districts and charters to be designated as having met federal "adequate yearly progress" standards. Federal designations will instead only go to the lowest performing 15% of schools statewide, which will become subject to a series of federally-mandated interventions.
In 2012, just 44.2% of Texas public schools met No Child Left Behind adequate yearly progress standards. The state did not release 2013 results because it was seeking the waiver.
The waiver was granted conditionally since Texas has yet to finalize its guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, and it will take effect for this school year.
According to Williams, they asked federal officials to understand that Texas was the first state to develop and implement college- and career-readiness curriculum standards, the first state to assess those standards, and was the first state to implement an accountability system to hold schools accountable for preparing students for postsecondary success.
"The underlying message throughout our negotiations with the federal government," he said, "has been Texans know what's best for Texas schools."