- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2012

Schools in the nation’s capital will no longer be subject to the mandates and deadlines of the federal No Child Left Behind education law.

The District was among the seven recipients of NCLB waivers granted Thursday by the Obama administration. The others are Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon and South Carolina.

Under the waiver program, rolled out by President Obama last fall, states can escape from NCLB’s “adequate yearly progress” and other mandates by submitting detailed reform plans that meet the approval of federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The White House repeatedly has called on Congress to replace the law, the goals of which are widely considered unrealistic.

But the House and Senate have, thus far, been unable to find much common ground. Education committees in both chambers have passed bills to replace NCLB, but partisan gridlock has thwarted efforts to reconcile the two.

“More and more, states can’t wait any longer for education reform,” Mr. Duncan said Thursday. “As these states have demonstrated, our kids can’t wait any longer for Congress.”

Thirty-two states and the District have now been granted freedom from the decade-old law, a landmark, bipartisan accomplishment of President George W. Bush’s administration and his first significant piece of domestic legislation.

While praised at the time for its high bar for student achievement and passed with the aid of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, NCLB has fallen out favor with most lawmakers and many educators because of its testing requirements and the penalties imposed on districts that fall short of federal benchmarks.

“No Child Left Behind has left an unfortunate legacy within our nation’s school systems, forcing students, teachers and schools to over-rely on standardized test results,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, said Thursday, adding that his state will “retain more control over our educational system” as a result of its successful waiver application.

Five states — California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa and Nevada — have waiver requests under review. Another 13 states and Puerto Rico have not applied.