Officials say it gives them more flexibility
Maryland is among eight states granted waivers by the US Department of Education to the "No Child Left Behind" law. The measure requires each state to improve student proficiency for all kids and sets timetables. Now, they have a little flexibility.
The law required that all children be successful academically by the 2013-14 academic year. "It's a lofty goal. It's the right goal," says Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education. "But in many respects, it's a goal, with the changing student population, is very difficult if not impossible to achieve." Now, schools are required to reduce the number of non-proficient students by half by 2017.
Reinhard says not all students learn at the same pace, and there are those kids who have trouble when it comes to academic success. "Students that come here from other countries, with limited English-language skills, and to believe that all those students can immediately become proficient in all of their courses was a tall order," he says. "All these students can achieve, but we believe they may need a little bit more time in some areas than others."
In addition, Reinhard says schools that had a disproportionate number of students who were not doing well academically were being unfairly called "failing schools." "Because of a particular population of students that school is serving, they've given some sort of scarlet letter, and we don't think that's fair to them, for to the students or for the community," he says.
But state officials say this does not mean that Maryland is turning its back on making sure all of its students achieve academically. "That's something we were actually doing before 'No Child Left Behind' came around," says Reinhard.
The other states granted waivers to the law are Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.
"No Child Left Behind" was enacted in the early 2000's, and has been up for renewal since 2007. The waivers are a stopgap measure until the law is rewritten. Members of Congress agree that it needs to be revised, but they're bickering over how it should be done.