Feds promise relief from No Child Left Behind goals to states moving in right direction. Georgia seems a shoo-in.

Responding to predictions that waves of U.S. schools would be proclaimed failing, the Obama White House delivered on its promise to offer states relief from the controversial provision of No Child Left Behind that all children demonstrate proficiency in math and reading by 2014.

That goal was always condemned by educators as pie-in-the-sky and has been blamed for the testing frenzy gripping and — some critics says — paralyzing  American classrooms.

In a press call this afternoon, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, said the failure of Congress to reform the No Child Left Behind led the White House to announce that it will grant waivers from the stringent 2014 goals.

Barnes said that she hoped every state would apply but that flexibility will only be given to those that “embrace reform” and accept accountability.

“When I was in Chicago, I never looked forward from a call from Washington telling me what we had to do,” said U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Saying that No Child was ”loose on goals and tight on the means of getting there,” Duncan repeated his standard criticisms of the Bush era law: it imposed a one-size-fits-all formula on all schools and stood in the path of organic reform.

Duncan said states dumbed down standards to satisfy No Child Left Behind, citing Tennessee as an offender. But now, he says Tennessee is raising its standards. “For states that are doing that, we want  to give them a lot flexibility to hit that bar,” said Duncan.

Duncan made clear that he is not looking to just tweak No Child, but made “basic change.”

He wants to get rid of No Child’s reliance on test scores to determine adequate yearly progress for schools. Under No Child, Duncan said schools showing progress were labeled as failing because they did not achieve some absolute score.

“It was dishonest. It demoralized teachers and principals who were working hard and was confusing to parents.  Where we are seeing progress, we want to reward that,” said Duncan, noting that some states would have 90 percent of their schools deemed failing under the current provisions of No Child.

The overall message of the press briefing is that the federal government will not hold states liable for the law’s ambitious proficiency targets as long as the state is moving down the reform path set by President Obama and Duncan and showing progress.

A panel will decide which states are moving in the right direction and deserve waivers, which then will be approved by Duncan himself. Some states have already applied for waivers from NCLB, but they will all be considered in September once all applications are submitted.

While Duncan said qualifying states will be granted waivers, it is still unclear exactly what states have to do to qualify. Those terms are being assembled now, he said, and will be released next month.

From the general description given thus far, it sounds like Race to the Top winners will qualify as the criteria to win a waiver aligns closely with the requirements to win a grant. In that case, Georgia ought to be a cinch for a waiver since the state is a Race to the Top winner and is at work on fulfilling all the requirements attached to the $400 million grant.

Among them: Adopt career and work ready standards, focus on closing the achievement gap, impose a “flexible and targeted” accountability system for teachers that considers student progress and develop and use data to inform policy and practice.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

36 comments Add your comment

Very Passionate About Our Schools

August 8th, 2011
3:26 pm

It is about time. The entire NCLB should be thrown in the Potomac.


August 8th, 2011
3:28 pm

Arne Duncan is a joke. He’s bribing states with these waivers so he can push through NCLB on steroids (Race to the Top).


August 8th, 2011
3:31 pm

I have a sinking feeling the cure is going to be worse than the disease in this case.


August 8th, 2011
4:27 pm

Will they talk to actual practicing educators this time?

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Ole Guy

August 8th, 2011
4:41 pm

This entire “initiative” only exemplifies governments’ #1 job: TO JUSTIFY FUNDING LEVELS ON LOST CAUSES.

Richard Woods

August 8th, 2011
4:45 pm

“When I was in Chicago, I never looked forward from a call from Washington telling me what we had to do,” said U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. How does Race to the Top change this process?

Barnes said that she hoped every state would apply but that flexibility will only be given to those that “embrace reform” and accept accountability. I wonder who gets to define “embracing reform?”

If this was offered in the form of a blank waiver that would return education oversite back to the states, I would be excited. However, the devil is once again in the details. Washington D.C. will continue to use our tax money to pick winners and losers and drive education in the U.S. off the cliff it deems best.


August 8th, 2011
4:53 pm

The whole problem with NCLB is that it’s NCE (No Child Excelling). By catering to and focusing so many of our resources on bringing the educationally challenged, not to mention the special ed, kids up to an arbitrary standard we shortchange the kids who will be the ones to build our nation’s future (and by extension, shortchange everyone).

That’s harsh, and politically incorrect, but true.

It’s NOT a justification for returning to the fairly draconian tracking of 30 years ago, wherein kids were placed in “levels” (as my school called it) in elementary school and pretty unlikely to move “up” but there is merit in the idea of giving ALL kids equal and equivalent access to resources human and material as opposed to focusing teacher time, classroom resources, and dollars predominantly on the project of making sure a small number of children are to be, let’s be honest, somewhat less “left behind” if only because others don’t get the encouragement to excel and get ahead.


August 8th, 2011
4:54 pm

No child left behind is alive and entrenched at Eastside schools. The Math classes now are layered with higher achievers/ middle level / lower level and dismal passed on from previous grade failures. Each category is about 25%. Pity your child if stuckj in the bottom 2 as these classes have the goof offs/ the hoods and the could care less types or chronic talkers. Detention / threat of more severe punishments do not deter these students. To get through each day is a chore.

The future of Ga public schools is written with continued abandonment by former middle white and blacks. As Georgia sinks further economically and absorbs the third world overwhelming student growth look to States that have already surrendered (California ) as this state’s future.

Mikey D

August 8th, 2011
5:01 pm

@Ed – Very, very true.

Duncan, once again, proves what a true dunce he is. States should not have to apply for waivers, but rather the entire testing requirement needs to be scrapped altogether. How many experts (REAL experts, not the phonies like Rhee) will it take to condemn this ridiculous system of phony accountability before Duncan and the other knuckleheads finally figure it out?

Having said that, at least it’s a positive first step…


August 8th, 2011
5:13 pm

Ed–you are so right..it is really frustrating that we spend so much time, effort and money coddling kids who have been diagnosed with affliction and we have to make them feel good about themselves at the expense of the kids who will be productive.
All we are doing is dumbing down America, as evidenced by the miserable test score and cheating on CRCT.

Dekalb taxpayer

August 8th, 2011
5:21 pm

And how can Georgia be viewed as “moving in the right direction”?


August 8th, 2011
5:33 pm

Obama = The Waiver President

Waivers for his “glorious” health care plan

Now waivers because kids cannot pass a test

Curious One

August 8th, 2011
6:17 pm

The “goals” for NCLB in 2013 and beyond are simply riduculous and Isakson, the author, should be horsewipped and spanked for writing such rubbish !


August 8th, 2011
6:18 pm

MiltonMan- This is a waiver for a program BUSH started…Obama knows its worthless but can’t just scrap the whole thing. In government, little steps of bureaucracy, because, like it or not, thats how government works. It may take years to unravel what Bush did to the school’s in our country. This will just be the first of many steps towards repealing it. (At least I hope and pray.)


August 8th, 2011
6:23 pm

Kids refuse to meet minimal standards like reading and simple math that everyone must achieve to be a functioning member of society. Obama’s plan to address that is to just lower the standards. This seems like a way to ensure his legacy drags us down for these kids entire lives.


August 8th, 2011
6:35 pm

ugaaccountant- I’m gonna assume you’re an accountant and not an educator (just a wild assumption) If you think you can get a child who has been put in the third grade but can only read on a Kindergarten level on third grade level in one year with 20 other students at different levels to get on level at the same time while also keeping them well behaved and using manners. And writing lesson plans, keeping attendance, only a thirty minute break at lunch, and then attend grade level meetings, committee meetings, faculty meetings, and system meetings. If you can do all that at the same time and get that one child on grade level, why are you an accountant? Don’t talk about something just to criticize Obama when you clearly don’t know what goes on in a classroom.


August 8th, 2011
6:53 pm


Have you ever tried to get a kid from a foreign country, who has never been to school and has little or no grasp of the English language to perform on grade level in just 8 months?

Have you ever tried to get a mentally retarded child with an IQ of 55 to pass a grade level test?

If not, then I suggest you try ….and then come back and post.


August 8th, 2011
7:00 pm

Oh boy…Obama has royally f’d up our economy….I don’t think I will trust him with education. Too many dumb children already.


August 8th, 2011
7:23 pm

Lower the bar again: that’ll fix everything.

Nurse from the past

August 8th, 2011
7:47 pm

Face it ! As long as there has been a school system there have been children that have been left behind. Get real ,I know it hard for some to believe but some children can not grasp the idea of learning. Most educators will agree that there is nothing anyone can do about some of these children. No amount of extra tutoring will touch the surface. This idea of NCLB is crazy. Let’s implement some other way to get the children trained for a job.


August 8th, 2011
8:03 pm

Vince – Your listed situations make sense to have a separate standard.

DPS data chick – your situation does not. Continuing to fail a mentally capable english speaking child year after year is not excusable.


August 8th, 2011
8:23 pm

No Child Left Behind has been a failure since Day 1. I don’t agree with the waivers because, like Obamacare with it’s “Waivers for Votes” program, the rules should apply to everyone or to no one. This has been a financial boondoggle from the outset, but worse, the cost to the education of students has been immeasurable. There are people who are doomed to fail, so fail them. Stop dumbing-down the classroom to accomodate those who are not there to learn at the expense of those who are. Increase the performance standards required in the classroom, and eliminate the testing at various levels. If a child can’t cut it and is at risk of being held back, maybe, just maybe, some parents will get involved with their kids’ educations, rather than passing off the blame to the teachers for Junior’s failure. Unfortunately, with what I’ve seen of many resumes of recent college graduates, it seems the NCLB program may be active there, too!


August 8th, 2011
10:32 pm

@ Vince –

“Have you ever tried to get a mentally retarded child with an IQ of 55 to pass a grade level test?”

Vince – wouldn’t a child receiving special education services in your school as you describe above – be taking the Georgia Alternate Assessment ?


August 9th, 2011
5:04 am

“He wants to get rid of No Child’s reliance on test scores to determine adequate yearly progress for schools. Under No Child, Duncan said schools showing progress were labeled as failing because they did not achieve some absolute score.”

And yet the Tennessee example (Duncan cites in his statement) now places 40% of teacher “accountability” measures solely on student test scores. The other 60% is based on subjective measures. The waiver is bribery or extortion, but not reform.

Duncan, the never been a teacher-really has no clue Secretary of Education, is an example of why education is a mess.

[...] Feds promise relief from No Child Left Behind goals to states moving in right direction. Georgia se… Responding to predictions that waves of U.S. Source: blogs.ajc.com [...]


August 9th, 2011
6:23 am

Wait for it…. wait for it….

Bingo! Last paragraph. There it is:

“…focus on closing the achievement gap…

For the politically correct, it ALWAYS comes back to that. You would think that in the sixty years since Brown vs Board, they would realize the folly of pushing boulders up hills.

“When I was in Chicago, I never looked forward from a call from Washington telling me what we had to do,”

However, the real legacy (and failure) of Brown vs Board is evident in this sentence. With that one court decision, the feds effectively wrested control of schools away from the locals.

@DPSdatachick, might I remind you that Bush merely signed the law, it was written by ultra-liberal Ted Kennedy and passed by both Dems and Repubs.


August 9th, 2011
7:02 am

NCLB legislation was proposed by President George W. Bush on January 23, 2001 based on the myth of the “Texas Education Miracle” and the “success” at closing the achievement gap. NCLB was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), George Miller (D-CA), and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). It passed with large majorities in both the House and Senate. President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002.


August 9th, 2011
7:55 am

It really is a hardship…and to try to right the ship without going below surface area suggestions will only frustrate education. I believe the true first step is to look state by state, region by region, and district by district, and we will see the disparity in educating children. Within in the states alone, one district if far better off than the other…(economically and educationally). To compare the two, even within the same state is ridiculuous. As we continue to have these ABSOLUTES, we will continue to have failing schools, cheating scandals, and bad labels for education.

Now, education as a whole must revamp educating children ages 0-5. We make the assumption that children during this age group are being exposed to sound educational practices…they are not. We assume that sound education should begin at age 6 or so…and it is not. Children even enter Pre-K programs sometimes 2 and 3 years delayed. Compound all the environemental hazards and cultures barriers, NO, doesn’t matter if the child is Special Ed, delayed, or lazy…100% will never be achieved.

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August 9th, 2011
12:03 pm


You didn’t answer DPSDataChick’s question, “If you can do all that at the same time and get that one child on grade level, why are you an accountant?”


August 9th, 2011
3:58 pm

@JW, “The bill, shepherded through the Senate by co-author Senator Ted Kennedy, received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.”

Plenty of blame to go around…

archie@arkham asylum

August 9th, 2011
5:18 pm

Instead of “No Child Left Behind” they should have named it “No Teacher Left Standing.” Even when it was drafted, I could have told you that the goal of having every student on grade level, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or disability by 2014 was a “pipe dream.” As for the student with the 55 I.Q. taking the CRCT vs.the Georgia Alternate Assessment I would say that depends on his placement. I.Q. 50-55 is the “grey area.” Students can be classified with I.Q.55 as either Mildly Intellectually disabled or Moderately Intellectually Disabled. If the classification is moderate, the student will likely be classified with the “Low Incidence Disability” group and will be allowed to do the Georgia Alternative Assessment. On the other hand, if the classification is Mild, the student will be mainstreamed and expected to take the CRCT just like his classmates.(I have never known of a student classified Mildly Disabled ever taking the GAA.) Schools failing to make AYP often have only one group showing deficits and very often, that group is the “Students With Disabilities” category. Of course, the criterion for AYP is “all or nothing” so the school could be doing great things with the other groups but that one group is going to put them on the “Needs Improvement” list. There are some special education students that will never pass the CRCT, no matter how much extra help they get. Why should we put them through it? Unfortunately, when it comes to academic ability, all men (broud sense of the word) are created equal but all men are not born equal!

Brandt Hardin

August 9th, 2011
8:28 pm

As a Tennessean, I don’t believe we should be excused from these National Standards. It is simply embarrassing that our new maverick Governor is asking for an exemption because our state has failed to raise the bar on education. Bill Haslam is passing a slew of laws in our state to infringe on Civil Liberties and First Amendment Rights with the Don’t Say Gay bill and making it Illegal to post offensive images to the internet. As an artist, I was compelled to react to Bill’s railroading of the Constitution and ignorance of standards set forth by our Government. You can see my portrait of our Governor which shows another side of his politics at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/07/potentially-offensive-portrait-governor.html


August 10th, 2011
6:26 am

“Plenty of blame to go around…”
Exactly the point of my earlier post. Not an “ultra-liberal” or ultra-conservative problem, but a failure of supposedly serious-minded people to actually think.
Almost a decade later, the NCLB beast is still around as are many of those that voted for it in Congress.

history teacher

August 10th, 2011
9:02 pm

Today I saw the proposal of requirements that Georgia will submit to be evaluated for use for AYP. The phrase frying pan into the fire keeps ringing in my head. Absolutely ridiculous.