President Obama Grants 10 States Waivers From No Child Left Behind

Ten years after the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) rewrote the nation’s education policies, President Obama granted 10 states waivers from some of its crucial provisions last Thursday.

The waivers allow states to escape some of the central provisions and sanctions associated with the NCLB law, policies that critics have branded onerous and unrealistic—in particular, the requirement that all students be deemed “proficient” in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year. In addition, states will no longer be bound by the law’s system of sanctions for schools that are deemed to be failing or not making adequate progress.

All Children Proficient In Math And Reading By 2014?

Education experts have long criticized the 2014 deadline for math and reading proficiency, saying that it was an impossibly high bar. The idea that all children of all abilities can be completely proficient in math and reading has no sound educational basis. Worse, schools that do not achieve this NCLB goal will be labeled “failures.”

NCLB was passed with broad bipartisan support in 2002 and has been up for renewal since 2007. Frustrated with the inability of Congress to move forward to renewal, Mr. Obama announced this waiver program last September.

The states — New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma — are the first group to receive waivers from the Bush-era law, in exchange for embracing the Obama administration’s educational agenda and its focus on accountability and teacher effectiveness.

Another Twenty-Eight States To Seek Waivers

Twenty-eight other states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they plan to seek waivers. If they all succeed, this could be the end of NCLB, which many would consider a step forward. On the other hand, the Obama administration’s educational agenda hasn’t won the hearts of every educator, so we should wait and see how this plays out.

From Education Week:

President Barack Obama, in announcing approval of the first waiver plans, said the process would reward states for coming up with innovative improvements to the law, which he said is too inflexible and punitive for schools.

“We’ve said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards,” President Obama said.

“We want high standards, and we’ll give you flexibility in return. We combine greater freedom with greater accountability. Because what might work in Minnesota may not work in Kentucky, but every student should have the same opportunity to reach their potential.”

Mr. Obama, surrounded by educators and lawmakers at the White House, said Thursday that while the goals of the No Child law were the right ones, “we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test, or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures.”

Supporters of NCLB say it establishes a set of clear and demanding expectations for schools and requires them to account for students whose performance has often been overlooked. But the law has drawn scorn from many educators, who say it has fostered a test-obsessed school culture and narrowed the curriculum by forcing schools to focus on reading and math at the expense of such subjects as science, history, art, and electives.

Will These Waivers Make A Difference?

And it remains to be seen whether these waivers will change any of that. Plenty of teachers feel we should just get rid of No Child Left Behind and start over. Maybe we could look to Finland for some guidance.

Related Stories

10 Years Of No Child Left Behind: Flawed Beyond Fixing?

Goodbye To No Child Left Behind? Not So Fast

Four Reasons Finland’s Schools Are Better Than Ours

Photo Credit: meckert75



Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago


Portland N.
P. L. Neola6 years ago

It was a mistake to lower the bar for the ten states! As we can well see, there are 28 states now seeking a waiver as well. That is 38 out of 50—or I guess 52—states that will eventually receive waivers.

Education is a beneficial tool in lowering or decreasing teen pregnancies, early marriages and divorce, child abuse (and maybe incest and rape if psychology classes are taught in the middle and high schools, many crimes, gang related activities, drug abuse, etc., etc.

An uneducated society suffers from overwhelming problems and issues that lead to the collapse of the society, for example, Mexico—in my opinion because of the drug cartel and human trafficking.

An educated society holds together better during adversity, meaning during serious problems and issues!!! Argentina has an extremely high literacy rate! Did not they suffer from excruciating inflation during the 1980s and maybe 1990s? I believe their country and society held together rather well considering the circumstances. Of course, I was still rather young back then, and I really did not pay GOOD attention to global matters as I should have back then!

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ Mike C..” remember who sponsered this bill, Mr. liberal Ted kenndy” Thanks for the correction , Mike. I somehow had the idea that it was Bush’s brainchild although Kennedy supported it. Too bad. That would have been a landmark case of across-the-aisle co-operation.

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ Stanley B.. “they [ the banks] know how to manipualye the rules” Of course. How could it be otherwise ? They made the rules in the first place, and they want a large return on their large investment.

Kasia Y.
Kasia Y.6 years ago

Why don't we just employ teachers who were smart enough to get into university, not teachers whose parents were rich enough to buy their degree? It's about time we had free universal education, otherwise we'll never be able to compete with China or India or Europe.

Stanley Balgobin
Stanley R6 years ago

NCLB was/is a dismal failure, just like Iraqi freedom and the war on drugs. All dismal bs waste of money, human resources and precious years. The Conservative retards who push this agenda must have some genetic defects in their brain. The GOP is hell bent on ruining what is left of America. We have some progressive, creative minds in our people; these citizens are never heard and sometimes have the most to contribute. The productive Corporate looters in Banks and Wall street pillage the benefits of our society as they know how to manipualye the rules and play the financial game better than the average hardworking poor.

Leah H.
Leah H6 years ago

That is a good start to ending a bad policy!

Jay Williamson
Jay w6 years ago

i cant believe that was made a legal requirement thank god obama wavered these schools.This was unrealistic and i know personally if that was my child in one of those schools that had that requirement the education board would no me quite well because my child is intellectually disabled and there is no chance that she would be proficient in maths and reading in a 1 or 2 year criteria.

Penny C.
penny C6 years ago


Chad A.
Chad Anderson6 years ago

I am an idealist and think education should be geared towards learning and not towards disciplining students for adapting to corporate control of society.