Report: Half of schools fail to meet federal standards

The numbers indicate what federal officials have been saying for more than a year—that the law, which is four years overdue for a rewrite, is “too crude a measure” to accurately depict what’s happening in schools, said Jack Jennings, president of the Washington, D.C.-based center. An overhaul of the law has become mired in the partisan atmosphere in Congress, with lawmakers disagreeing over how to fix it.

“No Child Left Behind is defective,” Jennings told The Associated Press. “It needs to be changed. If Congress can’t do it, then the administration is right to move ahead with waivers.”

Waivers fix the immediate problem but likely will make it much more difficult for parents to understand how schools are rated, because progress no longer will be based on just one test score.

Under the 11 waivers already filed, states are asking to use a variety of factors to determine whether they pass muster and to choose how schools will be punished if they don’t improve. Those factors range from including college-entrance exam scores to adding the performance of students on Advanced Placement tests.

At least 39 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have said they will file waivers, though it is unclear how many will get approved.

Republicans in Congress say Duncan and President Barack Obama are using the waivers to push a “backdoor education agenda” that ultimately will let schools off the hook.

“The law needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed in Congress and not by executive action,” House education committee Chairman John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, said in September after Obama announced the waivers.

Under No Child Left Behind, states that have tough standards are punished and schools that make progress but don’t hit benchmarks get treated the same as schools that see performance dip, Jennings said.

“A lot of educators saw the weaknesses in No Child Left Behind even when it was rolled out—that this day and time would come,” said Georgia schools Superintendent John Barge. “It’s kind of a train wreck that we all see happening.”

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