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White House implements waiver plans for No Child Left Behind Act

Waivers are made available to struggling schools

With schools struggling to meet the student progress requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, the White House announced Monday that it will be signing waivers relieving schools of some the key provisions of the law. Tennessee was not alone when half of its schools not meeting the annual yearly progress requirements of the No child Left Behind law last year.

The law requires all students to meet a certain reading and math adequacy by 2014 or the schools will be subject to reforms. But as standards increased annually, schools are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain or meet the requirements laid down by the law.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopes that the implementation of the waivers plans are “simply a transition to bridge to fixing the law.”

“The law — No Child Left Behind — as it currently stands is four years overdue for being rewritten. It is far too punitive, it is far too prescriptive, lead to a dummying down of standards, lead to a narrowing of the curriculum,” Duncan included at a White House press briefing on Monday. “We can’t afford to have the law of the land be one that has so many perverse incentives or disincentives to the kind of progress that we want to see.”

This time around, Rep. John Kline and his committee has been working on implementing a series of smaller, more specific bills rather than one large bill to reauthorize the entire Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002.

The Republican-led House Education and the Workforce Committee has passed three bills with the intention of streamlining education programs, address charter school issues and puts less restraint on the states and localities on how they decide to spend their federal dollars. These bills though have not yet made it to the House floor for debate, nor have they come up in the Democratic- led Senate for debate. So far, only one of the bills- the charter school approach- has passed out of the House committee with bipartisan support.

“I remain concerned that temporary measures instituted by the Department (of Education), such as conditional waivers, could undermine the committee’s efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” Rep. Kline said in a statement Friday. Duncan announced that the Education Department will make known the standards under which the waivers operate in September, while all states are encouraged to apply.

“I have not spoken to one governor that wasn’t very enthusiastic about this,” Duncan said, adding that he has spoken to more than 30 governors about the waiver plan.

Kelli Gauthier of the Department of Education in Tennessee reported that Tennessee applied for a waiver to the law late last month. If a waiver is not approved for Tennessee, the state would be “responsible for intervening in a large number of its ‘failing’ schools; a role the department has neither the desire nor the capacity to take on,” according to Gauthier.

Tennessee is still waiting to see if their request is approved by Secretary Duncan.

Read more about the waiver plans here.

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