Arizona, Oregon, South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi and the District of Columbia join 26 states already exempt from strict school testing standards.
The Obama administration has approved seven more requests for waivers from the No Child Left Behind law, recognizing the continued inability of states to live up to lofty standards that have caused thousands of schools to be marked as failing.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Arizona, Oregon, South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi and the District of Columbia would join 26 states already exempt from key provisions in the strict law.
No Child Left Behind was supposed to force schools to be accountable by raising education expectations and setting a goal for all students to be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. But critics have faulted the law for its reliance on standardized tests and unrealistic standards.
Ben Cannon, education policy advisor to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, called the law's target scores "arbitrary" and said No Child Left Behind sanctions would have cost Oregon millions of dollars.
In 2011, 48% of the nation's public schools failed No Child Left Behind testing targets, the highest percentage considered failing since PresidentGeorge W. Bushsigned the law in 2002, according to a study by the Center on Education Policy.
D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley said that under No Child Left Behind, nearly 90% of the district's schools were considered failing, instead of being recognized for their growth and improvement.
"We firmly believe the goals of No Child Left Behind were the right goals," Mahaley said. "The waiver is not a retreat from accountability. It is a move toward smarter accountability."