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Obama Administration Will Override Key Component Of 'No Child Left Behind'

The secretary of education announced that the Obama administration will grant waivers to states that don't want to participate in requirements mandated by the No Child Left Behind law.

Arne Duncan said the move is in response to state and local education officials who say the law's requirements are unrealistic.

The Washington Post reports:

"The states are desperately asking for us to respond," Duncan said in a conference call with reporters Friday.

Duncan and Melody Barnes, President Obama's domestic policy adviser, were short on specifics but said they would release details in September, when they will begin weighing applications from any state that wants to be exempted from No Child Left Behind.

Administration officials said they will grant waivers to states that adopt standards designed to prepare high school graduates for college and careers, use a "flexible and targeted" accountability system for educators based on student growth and make "robust use of data," among other things.

The New York Times reports that last year 38,000 of the country's 100,000 schools did not meet standards set by the law. Duncan said that number would be 80,000 this year.

Rep. John Kline (R-MN) told the Times through a statement that the waivers would undermine Congress' efforts to rewrite the law.

Politico reports that the White House has asked for months now that Congress rewrite the law by September, "but as the calendar moves closer to Obama's deadline, the House and Senate have moved on separate paths at a pace the White House says is not nearly fast enough."

Politico adds:

"Today we're less than a month from the start of the school year, and...we still believe there is no clear path toward a bipartisan bill to reform 'No Child Left Behind,' said White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes in a conference call with reporters, the contents of which were embargoed until Monday.

"Our administration has been working on plans to provide more flexibility. The president has directed us to proceed with those plans."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.