In a National First, 8 California School Districts Earn NCLB Waivers

The eight school systems are the first in the country to win such rights based on a direct appeal to the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, the department would consider exemptions to the No Child Left Behind law only if state governments applied.
August 7, 2013

The Los Angeles Unified School District, and seven others in California, will have more freedom to spend millions of federal dollars, create new ways to evaluate teachers and schools and replace restrictive testing and other rules, under a groundbreaking agreement announced Tuesday.

The eight school systems are the first in the country to win such rights based on a direct appeal to the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, the department would consider exemptions to the No Child Left Behind law only if state governments applied.

One result is that these districts will operate under different rules than other California school systems, which prompted sharp criticism in some quarters. These districts, which represent more than 1 million students, joined together to seek waivers to the law because top state education officials opposed the federal process.

No Child Left Behind, enacted under President George W. Bush, was aimed at ensuring that nearly all students would be academically successful by 2014. It forced states to pay more attention to student achievement, especially as measured by standardized tests. But opponents say it also has resulted in nearly all schools being judged as "failing" for not meeting nearly impossible improvement targets. These campuses are subject to severe sanctions, including being shut down or removing the entire staff.

The agreement allows the eight districts to replace a raft of federal rules with measures of their own choosing that met with favor from the Obama administration.

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