Maryland on Tuesday became the first state in the Washington area to receive a pardon from the federal No Child Left Behind law, joining 18 other states that have sought relief from the law's stringent -- and allegedly unrealistic -- benchmarks for student achievement.
The U.S. Department of Education is still reviewing waiver applications from Virginia and the District, as well as 16 other states. Eight of the 26 applications for waivers from No Child Left Behind, which requires 100 percent of students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, were approved Tuesday in addition to the 11 that already received waivers.
State and federal officials have acknowledged that No Child Left Behind's yearly benchmarks, dubbed "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, are so high that even successful schools are labeled as failing. The law, created in 2001, has particularly troubled states because it sets AYP standards for student subgroups, such as minorities, low-income students and English-language learners.
|Children left behind?|
|Like most states, Maryland failed to make "adequate yearly progress," its benchmark set for student progress in 2011, because of the performance of some student subgroups. Those who did not make AYP are bolded below.|
|Two or more races||90.7%||86.6%|
|Limited English proficiency||75.7%||74.3%|
|Source: Maryland State Department of Education|
Under Maryland's plan, about 91 percent of its students would be proficient in math, and 93 percent in reading, by 2017.
In 2011, the state -- whose public schools have been named the best in the nation for four consecutive years by Education Week -- failed to make AYP because not enough of its black, low-income, special education or English-language learner subgroups were proficient in math or reading, and Hispanic students did not make the mark in reading. Statewide, 85.4 percent of students were proficient in reading, and 81 percent in math.
Interim State Superintendent Bernard Sadusky said the waiver would allow Maryland to concentrate efforts on fewer schools in need of the most assistance, now that fewer schools would be labeled failing.
"We are not turning our back on accountability, and will continue to work to make certain all schools and students improve," Sadusky said. "At the same time, we are pleased the U.S. Department of Education will allow us to funnel resources into those classrooms with the most vexing issues."
In addition to Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island received waivers Tuesday.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the eight states were receiving "relief" from the law's "one-size-fits-all federal mandates" and encouraged state leaders to focus their efforts on the schools struggling the most.
In the District, where less than half of students are proficient in math or reading, officials have submitted a waiver application that would put about three-quarters of students at proficiency by 2017.
After federal officials expressed concern with the District's status as a "high risk grantee" because of its past troubles with accounting for grants, D.C. was given more time to resubmit its application, and plans to do so this week.
Federal officials are also still considering Virginia's application; the state wants 75 percent of students proficient in reading and 70 percent in math by 2014.