The Obama administration freed eight states from core provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, bringing to 19 the number of states granted waivers this year, and officials said that even more states would soon qualify for them.
State officials have clamored in particular for relief from the federal law’s requirement that every student be proficient in math and English by 2014. The Department of Educationwaived that condition in exchange for an agreement by states to meet new standards — in a longer time frame — that Arne Duncan, the education secretary, says are tougher.
Critics of the 2001 law have long said that the universal proficiency requirement was both too vague — states set their own definitions for proficiency, and some set them quite low — and unattainable. In 2010, 38 percent of the nation’s schools failed to meet their benchmarks for annual progress toward the 2014 goal, and Mr. Duncan has warned that the figure could soar to 80 percent.
The law has been up for renewal since 2007, but Congress has been unable to agree on a new version.
The waivers, like the Race to the Top competition for federal money, have allowed the Obama administration to enact parts of its education agenda without sweeping legislation, prompting some conservatives to complain that it is overstepping its authority.
In a conference call with journalists, Mr. Duncan insisted that he would much rather Congress amended the law.
“Our goal with this waiver process, frankly, has always been to get out of the way of states and districts,” Mr. Duncan said. “Stay tuned in the coming weeks. We’ll be announcing more states.”
So far, the department has not turned down any state’s request for a waiver, though it has negotiated the terms with states before granting them. Eighteen additional requests are pending.