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Waivers continue to be given to states in implementation of No Child Left Behind law

JA'PHETH TOULSON Special to the AmNews | 7/26/2012, 4:25 p.m.

More than half the states in the nation have received waivers from the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.

According to the Department of Education, 25 states, including New York, and the District of Columbia submitted requests to be relieved from meeting the lofty and controversial goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 11 states.

While No Child Left Behind has been praised for pushing schools to become more accountable for the education of poor and minority children, the law has also been derided for what some regard as an obsessive focus on test scores, which has led to some notorious cheating scandals. Critics have also faulted the law's system of rating schools, which they say labeled so many of them as low-performing that it rendered the judgment meaningless.

In exchange for education waivers, schools and districts in these states must promise to set new targets aimed at preparing students for colleges and careers. They must also put together evaluations of teachers and schools in addition to student achievement on standardized tests. The use of tests to judge teacher effectiveness is a departure from No Child Left Behind, which used test scores to rate schools and districts.

Director of Education Policy and Practice Donna Harris-Aikens said that in order for students to excel in school, they need to be surrounded by encouragement and support in a safe community along with adults.

"Granted waivers are not the ultimate goal," Harris-Aikens said.

In addition, she acknowledged that while most schools would have problems reaching the goals of the No Child Left Behind law by 2014, the ultimate goal is for schools to continue showing improvement.

"That's much more important," she said.

Harris-Aikens said the law could be reauthorized in the future, holding schools accountable for assessment while supporting the common goal of improving student achievement.