The Obama administration granted waivers to five more states seeking relief from key conditions of the No Child Left Behind education law. In exchange, the states agreed to enact new standards and evaluate schools and teachers based on students’ academic progress.
State officials and critics of the 2001 federal law have long complained that it was unreasonable and unrealistic in requiring every student to demonstrate proficiency in math and English by 2014.
Arne Duncan, secretary of education, said the new standards were “ambitious but achievable targets.”
The No Child Left Behind law has been up for renewal since 2007, but Congress has not authorized revisions. Friday’s action by the administration brings to a total of 24 the number of states that have received waivers, and applications from an additional 13 states are under review.
The department’s approval of requests from Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia on Friday came the week after the federal Education Department declined to approve an application from Iowa, on the grounds that the state had not demonstrated that it would adequately measure teacher performance.
Critics said they worried that the administration was substituting one set of test-based requirements for another.
“I’m concerned that the only waiver applications they are accepting are reinforcing the test-based culture that exist in too many schools,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.