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Massachusetts educators are welcoming a federal decision to waive some of the No Child Left Behind standards in this state.
On Thursday, President Obama granted waivers to Massachusetts and nine other states from the law's strict and sweeping requirements.
No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Under those requirements, 80 percent of Massachusetts schools were not measuring up.
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, develop meaningful teacher and principal evaluation systems, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.
A new goal for Massachusetts, approved by the government, is to cut in half the achievement gaps between groups of students within the next four years.
State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester says the waiver is great news for Massachusetts.
“It puts in place a more sensible approach to accountability for whether or not students are learning,” Chester said. “Second of all, it’s a validation for Massachusetts of the high standards we’ve set.”
Boston Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson says it will allow her district to be more flexible.
"It's a shift from making adequate yearly progress, saying 100 percent of kids will be at proficiency, to a real focus on reducing the gaps that exist," Johnson said. "It's being able to target those resources in very specific ways and help parents differentiate between schools that are making pretty good progress and those that are failing."
For all the cheers that states may have about the changes, the move also reflects the sobering reality that the United States is not close to the law’s original goal: getting children to grade level in reading and math.
Local critics say the waiver will lower educational standards.
Critics of No Child Left Behind say the 2014 deadline was unrealistic, the law is too rigid and led to teaching to the test, and too many schools feel they are labeled as “failures.” In September, Obama called President George W. Bush’s most hyped domestic accomplishment an admirable but flawed effort that hurt students instead of helping them.
The other nine states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press
This program aired on February 9, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.
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