No Child Left Behind loosens grasp as 10 states freed from requirements
No Child Left Behind has been a contentious law ever since it was passed in 2002. Now ten states have been released of some of the toughest legal requirements of the law.
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Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said under the waiver plan states essentially have a contractual relationship with the federal government to deliver on the approved plan.Skip to next paragraph
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"I think there is a legitimate concern or fear out there on the part of people that by giving these waivers, states might be 'let off the hook' in terms of accountability, and I think what you'll find is just the opposite," Wilhoit said. "They have raised the standards. They have put in place much more focused attention to the lowest performing, they have put in place professional development activities that didn't exist prior, and they are holding those schools much more accountable."
In Colorado, Bridget Cole, a 4th grade teacher who was eating an egg salad sandwich with a group of student on a field trip to the Colorado state Capitol, said she was relieved to hear the news out of the White House.
"No Child Left Behind never changed how I taught. I know what my kids need. It's easier for me to see where my kids need to be rather than pay attention to what the federal government tells me my kids need to be," Cole said.
While the president's action marks a change in education policy in America, the reach is limited. The populous states of Pennsylvania, Texas and California are among those that have not said they will seek waivers, although they could still do so.
Some states might wait to see if Obama wins re-election November, said Jeffrey Henig, professor of political science and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Others might bet the administration "won't be in a position to strongly clamp down on them for failure to meet progress goals that the administration has indirectly indicated it admits are unrealistic," Henig said.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said states without waivers will be held to the standards of No Child Left Behind because "it's the law of the land."
Until now, the issue of education has stayed largely out of the presidential race.
But Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over education, said Obama was using education as a "political poker chip."
"This action clearly politicizes education policy, which historically has been a bipartisan issue," Enzi said. "It is time for the president to work with Congress on important issues like this instead of acting unilaterally."
And when Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, released new legislation Thursday that would rewrite No Child Left Behind, it included a provision that prohibits the education secretary from coercing states into adopting specific academic standards in exchange for a waiver.
Duncan maintained this week that the administration "desperately" wants Congress to fix the law.
In an election year in a divided Congress, action on Capitol Hill appears unlikely.
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