Duncan: States will get school testing waivers
By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP August 8, 2011 1:32AM
WASHINGTON - MARCH 1: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks during a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee on Capitol Hill March 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. The committee called Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to testify about the Obama administration's proposed FY2012 education budget. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0063759078.jpg
Updated: September 9, 2011 12:42AM
State and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law, but school starts soon and Congress still hasn’t answered the call.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break.
The plan to offer waivers to all 50 states, as long as they meet other school reform requirements, comes at the request of President Barack Obama, Duncan said. More details on the waivers will come in September, he said.
The goal of the No Child Left Behind law is to have every student proficient in math and reading by 2014. States have been required to bring more students up to the math and reading standards each year, based on tests that usually take place each spring. The step-by-step ramping up of the nine-year-old law has caused heartburn in states and most school districts, because more and more schools are labeled as failures as too few of their students meet testing goals.
Critics say the benchmarks are unrealistic and brands schools as failures even if they make progress. Schools and districts where too few kids pass the tests for several years are subject to sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.
Through the waivers, schools will get some relief from looming deadlines to meet testing goals as long as they agree to embrace other kinds of education reforms such as raising standards, helping teachers and principals improve, and focusing on fixing the lowest performing schools.
Nothing in this plan for temporary relief will undermine what Congress is still discussing in terms of revising federal education laws, Duncan said. The long-awaited overhaul of the law began earlier this year in the U.S. House, but a comprehensive reform appears far from the finish line. AP