The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that Maine’s application for a waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has been granted, allowing the state to implement another school accountability measure separate from the A-through-F grading system unveiled earlier this year.
The two-year waiver means that Maine is exempt from the strict and virtually unattainable guidelines of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which decreed that 100 percent of students nationwide reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014.
No Child Left Behind, which was once again called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under the Obama administration, has been criticized for demanding 100 percent proficiency, the failure of which would result in federal sanctions. About 67 percent of Maine’s elementary students and 48 percent of high school students have achieved proficiency in reading and math benchmarks, which have become incrementally tougher since the implementation of the act.
Instead, Maine will be allowed to work toward the goal of halving the percentage of nonproficient students and raising the graduation rate at Title 1 schools to 90 percent over the next six years. Title 1 is a federal designation for schools with high levels of low-income or otherwise disadvantaged learners. There are 380 Title 1 schools in Maine, though all schools will be eligible for state and federal resources under the new system.