President letting states opt out of NCLB

Published 11:46 pm Friday, September 23, 2011

While President Barack Obama on Friday gave states the chance to opt out of the controversial No Child Left Behind law, some educators are wary of what those waivers actually entail.

“People are worried about what you’ll have to do in order to get that waiver and what conditions are going to be put on the states,” said Chreseal Threadgill, the assistant superintendent who oversees curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Troy City Schools.

“What those conditions are, nobody really knows.”

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Like many other educators, Threadgill said he sees both positives and negatives in the No Child Left Behind legislations. “There are certain things in No Child Left Behind that are good, and there are some things that need to be addressed,” he said. “For instance, the expectation that you’ll have 100 percent of your special education population being 100 percent efficient by 2014.”

That, he said, is not a reasonable expectation, given the challenges many students in the category face with learning disabilities.

Obama’s announcement could fundamentally affect the education of tens of millions of children. It will allow states to scrap a key requirement that all children show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 — if those states meet conditions such as imposing their own standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.

Kids will still have to take yearly tests in math and reading, although the administration says the emphasis will be more on measuring growth over time.

The impact on school kids could vary greatly depending on how states choose to reward or punish individual schools. Under No Child Left Behind, children who attend schools deemed failures after a set period of time are eligible for extra tutoring and school choice. Under the president’s plan, it’s up to states granted waivers to decide if they will use those same remedies.

A majority of states are expected to apply for waivers, which would be given to those that qualify early next year.

State officials have long complained that if they had more flexibility, they could implement positive changes. Now, they will have to step up and prove it.

“This is really going to change things because it really does put responsibility squarely on the states,” said Amy Wilkins, a vice president at Education Trust, a nonprofit that seeks to raise achievement standards in schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.