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Oklahoma freed from some No Child Left Behind education mandates

The White House announced Thursday that Oklahoma is one of 10 states that will receive a waiver from federal requirements under the 10-year-old No Child Left Behind law.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND AND CHRIS CASTEEL Modified: February 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm •  Published: February 9, 2012

Oklahoma's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act will mean more focus on individual student improvement and an increased flexibility for schools, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said.

Oklahoma is one of 10 states that Thursday received a waiver from the federal education law that has measured school achievement for the past decade.

The waiver allows the state to implement a homegrown accountability system for schools.

“We'll be measured by individual growth and success of students,” said Kathy Dunn, executive director of federal programs for the Midwest City-Del City School District. “But we also have the flexibility to serve those students with our monies where the needs are rather than all of the constraints that had been placed on those federal dollars.”

The No Child Left Behind Act required for the first time in 2002 that states implement standardized tests used to measure school achievement. It also introduced penalties for failing schools and prescribed measures for improvements.

“Before No Child Left Behind was law, we were able to mask low achievement and underperformance of some of our kids by using aggregate data, using averages and summarizing what we were seeing,” said Phyllis Hudecki, Oklahoma education secretary. “Students were indeed left behind and falling through the gaps academically.”

But the law was criticized for some of its requirements for testing and closure of low-performing schools. And while Congress has struggled for years to craft legislation to update the law, no bipartisan consensus has been reached on remedies.

The Obama administration's frustration with the law led first to a Race to the Top grant program to encourage broad reforms and then to the decision to grant waivers allowed under the education law.

In remarks at the White House before a group of educators, President Barack Obama said, “Each of these states has set higher benchmarks for student achievement. They've come up with ways to evaluate and support teachers fairly, based on more than just a set of test scores. And along with promoting best practices for all of our children, they're also going to be focusing on low-income students, and English language learners and students with disabilities — not just to make sure that those children don't fall through the cracks, but to make sure they have every opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.”

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