A majority of states intend to take President Barack Obama up on his offer to let them get around unpopular requirements in the No Child Left Behind law, the federal Education Department said Oct. 13.
Obama said last month he was frustrated that Congress hasn’t acted to change the law that he has said is flawed, so he was moving forward with an effort to let qualifying states circumvent it.
His plan allows states to scrap a key requirement that all children show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014. To qualify, the states must submit a plan showing how they will meet certain requirements such as enacting standards to prepare students for college and testing for those standards, and by making teachers and principals more accountable by setting guidelines on evaluations.
The Education Department says 37 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have notified the agency that they intend to submit a plan to get a waiver around the law. Seventeen states have said they will submit a plan by Nov. 14, which means it will be reviewed in December and could be enacted as soon as early next year.
While the opportunity to apply for a waiver was warmly received in many states, some officials see the requirements to get a waiver as intrusive or expensive to implement.
California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas and were among the states that didn’t file a notice of intention by a deadline Oct. 12—although they still could apply for a waiver later.
In Texas, Debbie Ratcliffe, the spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the state was still weighing its options. Texas has not adopted what is known as the Common Core standards, a uniform national standard of what high school students should know when they graduate from high school. Because of that, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has expressed concern that it could be a more arduous task for the state to prove it has adopted “college- and career-ready standards” that is a requirement for a state to get a waiver, Ratcliffe said.
Ratcliffe said Scott has also expressed concern that the state would find itself in the position of having the federal government controlling what teachers teach in their classrooms.
“Our concern is that it’s exchanging one set of strings for another set of strings,” Ratcliffe said.
California officials also remain undecided, although Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, has said in a statement that California already has a strong accountability system in place and that meeting the requirements to get a waiver would appear to cost billions of dollars. He urged Congress to rework the law.