Following up on a plan he unveiled last September to let states apply to be exempt from basic elements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law, President Obama will today announce the first 10 states that have qualified for such exemptions.
The Associated Press, citing "a White House official ... who spoke on condition of anonymity because the states had not yet been announced," says the states are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
One state, New Mexico, has been denied a waiver but is working with the administration to see if it can soon qualify, according to the wire service.
The goal of the waivers is to give states more flexibility as they seek to reach educational achievement goals set by the federal government when George W. Bush was president.
NPR's Larry Abramson reported in September, when Obama's waiver plan was announced, that:
"States that apply for and receive waivers no longer have to label schools as failing if they fall short of achievement goals. Instead, states can come up with their own plans to boost performance. They also no longer have to set aside a certain amount of federal money to deal with low performing schools. ...
"States must show that they have ways to measure student growth and get students ready for college or a career. They also have to be developing comprehensive teacher evaluations that include the use of standardized test scores."
The AP adds that while "No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014 ... Obama's action strips away that fundamental requirement for those approved for flexibility, provided they offer a viable plan instead. Under the deal, the states must show they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst."
The plan for exemptions, Larry also reported, worries some "advocates for minority and special education students" who are concerned that such students will be ignored.
Update at 5:50 p.m. ET. The States' Plans:
NPR's Claudio Sanchez sent us a bit more information on plans submitted to the Obama administration. Claudio writes:
"With a waiver in hand, Massachusetts for example will instead require that every school make continuous progress with a six year goal of cutting in half the percentage of students who are not at grade level.
"Interestingly, not a single state is expected to use their waiver to do something really innovative or creative in the classroom. All 10 states in this first round will just be happy that the U.S. Department of Education won't be breathing down their necks for the next couple of years over things like "adequate yearly progress" or shutting down failing schools."
Claudio also fleshes out the criticism on both sides:
"Some groups, both on the right and left, meanwhile are not exactly thrilled about this waiver business.. Conservatives say the waivers themselves still come with too many strings attached.. Liberals, especially in the civil rights community, are afraid that states will use the waivers to mask what some view as the "feeble" efforts to raise the performance of latino, black and special education students..
"The administration insists, its not going to give states so much flexibility that they won't be held accountable for results.. states that get waivers still must adopt rigorous standards, fix dysfunctional schools, close the achievement gap between low and high performing students, and do a better job training and evaluating teachers.. which by the way is no small task given the impasse between teachers' unions and lawmakers over things like tenure and merit pay in several states."
Claudio reports that another 28 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., are expected to apply for waivers in a second round.