ED considering district-by-district NCLB waivers

Education Secretary Arne Duncan seems to be softening his opposition to district-level waivers to the No Child Left Behind law. (Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com)

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is talking with individual school districts about how to free them from unworkable parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law, signaling he is open to an approach he long tried to avoid.

The Education Department (ED) has given 34 states and the District of Columbia permission to ignore parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, and eight others have waiver applications pending ahead of next week’s application deadline.

But that still leaves eight states—giants California and Texas among them—operating under the law and set to fall short of its requirements, such as all students being proficient in math and reading by 2014.

The next step could be allowing school districts themselves to petition for exemptions from national requirements that states are all but certain to fail to meet.

“I’m not saying we are going to go down that path,” Duncan said Feb. 21 before trailing off, “but if we go down that path …”

It seems as though his department is already setting that in motion, however.

California, for instance, failed its first attempt at an NCLB waiver and remains a top worry for ED officials.

District superintendents met with federal officials on Feb. 20 in Washington, D.C., to talk through options—and Duncan joined them for 30 minutes of face-to-face discussion.

(Next page: What Duncan said after this meeting)

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