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States to get waivers on school testing

Associated Press / August 8, 2011

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NEW YORK - State and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law, but school starts soon and Congress still has not answered the call.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system today to give schools a break.

The plan to offer waivers to all 50 states, as long as they meet other school reform requirements, comes at the request of President Obama, Duncan said. More details on the waivers will come in September, he said.

The goal of the No Child Left Behind law is to have every student proficient in math and reading by 2014. States have been required to bring more students up to the math and reading standards each year, based on tests that usually take place each spring.

The steadily increasing goals of the nine-year-old law has caused heartburn in states and most school districts, because more and more schools are labeled as failures as too few of their students meet testing goals.

Critics say the benchmarks are unrealistic and brand schools as failures even if they make progress. Schools and districts where too few students pass the tests for several years are subject to sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.

Through the waivers, schools will get some relief from looming deadlines to meet testing goals as long as they agree to embrace other kinds of education reforms such as helping teachers and principals improve and focusing on fixing the lowest-performing schools.

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