MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota will seek a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law, Gov. Mark Dayton announced Monday, which would free state schools from some testing requirements and sanctions in the often criticized law.

The announcement came hours after the Obama administration presented its plans to give school districts a break from the law, as long as they pursue education changes backed by the administration.

Dayton, a Democrat, said the waiver would “provide school boards, administrators, teachers, and parents with the flexibility they need to implement the reforms the Legislature and I enacted in the recent session.”

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said she expected the waiver would most benefit districts now forced to pay for sanctions under the NCLB law by freeing up money to spend on new reforms.

“When you take those dollars away from schools that you are trying to provide some innovation around and support, I think that those dollars can be used to focus our reforms back into those schools,” she said.

For example, she said, without the expensive sanctions of NCLB, struggling Minnesota schools would have more money to spend on new systems for evaluating and improving teachers and principals.

Cassellius said about half of Minnesota school districts have failed to make “adequate yearly progress” as defined by the law in 2009. Of those, she said, 71 districts are facing corrective action.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, corrective action can include requirements to replace staff, implement a new curriculum, extend the school year or hire outside experts to advise the district.

The results of the 2010 NCLB testing haven’t been released, but Cassellius said she expected more Minnesota schools would be labeled as failures when the scores come in later this summer.

She expected the state’s waiver request would be finished by the end of the week and hoped it would be approved in time for the school year that starts this fall.

Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, the state teacher’s union, praised the move. “NCLB has failed our children through an unrealistic fixation on high stakes tests that unfairly labeled talented students and quality schools as failures,” he said.

Rep. Patrick Garofalo, R-Farmington, chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, said the waiver request was a positive step toward giving local educators more control. “We have a long track record of being nation-leading in our education reforms,” he said. “We don’t need the federal government telling us what to do.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday that President Barack Obama was authorizing him to grant waivers because Congress had failed to act on a comprehensive overhaul of the law.

Minnesota Rep. John Kline, the Republican chairman of the House education committee, has said he was concerned the temporary waivers would undermine efforts for a more thorough and permanent overhaul of the law, but he said Monday he would withhold judgment on the latest plan until the details were released.

“Unfortunately, more questions than answers surround the secretary’s waivers proposal,” he said. “The secretary has a responsibility to explain the steps states and schools will be required to take in exchange for the promised relief.”

Kline’s committee has been working on a series of targeted bills to replace the law. Duncan has been critical of both the pace of the work and some of polices in the bills.

Critics call NCLB’s benchmarks unrealistic and say they brand schools as failures even if they are making progress toward the law’s goal of having every student proficient in math and reading by 2014.

The steady ramping up of requirements has concerned most states and school districts, as an increasing share of schools are labeled as failures because too few of their students are hitting testing targets.

Duncan said the details of the waiver plan would be released next month. He said the administration will encourage every state to apply for a waiver.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (12)
  1. Reasonable says:

    Let’s not forget that teaching to a test only teaches fact retention and does not encourage thought.

  2. sweetredhead says:

    Let’s not foget that these schools are failing for a reason. They should be looked at and not forgiven for failing our kids.

    1. sad but true says:

      True redhead? The schools should be held accountable, bad teachers = bad grades and poorly educated students.

  3. john says:

    Perhaps they are failing because they come from a socioeconomic background that has them behind from day one. Or, perhaps they are failing because they are lazy. Or , have poor teachers. Or, they live in Mpls. rather than Edina. Or…

  4. S says:

    Or….Maybe people are finally beginning to realize that the “No Child Left Behind” program is unrealistic and does not work. It has done more harm than good, both to teachers and to students.

  5. Horace Mann says:

    An education policy devised by politicians..who’d thunk that it would be a mess?

  6. Murph says:

    Perhaps,like the rest of us,they figure the cards are stacked against them to begin with! The children need nurturing and opportunities to succeed.No fancy GOP laws that put them at further disadvantage by pulling funding in order to give it to private schools for the very rich .There comes a time when the public will have to take the fascists out behind the wood shed.That time is now!

    1. Citizen says:

      Murph, right on. When “W” tried to enact a voucher program, it was soundly rejected (as it always is). So he created NCLB to actually WORSEN public schools so average Americans would (hopefully) accept sending their children to private schools. NCLB was set up to make public schools fail. Getting rid of this failed policy is a very good move on Minnesota’s part.

  7. Christian Wait says:

    If anyone thinks the state legislate can do better, google “Profiles of learning”.

    THAT was a cluster****.

    1. Christian Wait says:

      Er, legislature.

  8. Bulldoze the DOE says:

    Educators: “Um, can we still get the federal bucks if we leave a few children behind? I mean gosh, just because home schooled kids test up in the 90th percentile, and do it for a few hundred bucks per kid per year, doesn’t mean that we should have crank out mediocre students for a mere 15K per kid per year. I mean really, give us more money, and we promise we’ll do better”. And the check is in the mail.

  9. Jon says:

    Unless you’ve gone through a school in the past ten years then no one has room to talk.

    No Child Left Behind is terrible and takes the fun out of teaching and learning. I can’t tell you how many tests I took from middle school onwards after that act was created, and it didn’t help me at all. The regurgitation of knowledge that isn’t applicable to what I currently study and yet they hinged my entire educational career and school’s status on that crap.

    We’ve got old politicians designing educational policy even though they haven’t sat in a classroom for 20 years. Times are different – wish kids could throw some input into the ring.

    In the end, the entire country’s educational policy needs to be reassessed. It’s a sham. But remember, our legislators have other priorities that seemingly take precedent over an increasingly unprepared youth. In the end, they blame us for our inadequacies. Some encouragement.

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