Formative assessment throughout the school year and better training for school leaders are among the plans for turning around sub-par schools that six states will try under a pilot program this year.

The six states are getting the OK to write their own prescriptions for ailing schools under the Bush administration's signature education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

It's a softening of how NCLB currently works, with schools having to take certain steps at specific times for missing math and reading testing goals. Critics have complained that this approach is too rigid and treats schools the same, regardless of whether they


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