The Obama administration will offer waivers to exempt states from some federal education requirements, so long as they agree to hold students — including those with disabilities — to high standards.
Under a new plan announced Friday, President Barack Obama said that states can apply for waivers to get out of some of the most onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind. But, the waivers will be contingent on states implementing standards to ensure that all students, including those with special needs, are “college and career ready.”
The announcement comes amid frustration from the White House that Congress has not yet considered changes to No Child Left Behind. The law demanded higher standards for students, but critics argue that it encouraged states to lower the bar in an effort to meet requirements.
“The goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable,” Obama said Friday. “But experience has taught us that, in its implementation, No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them.”
By allowing states to obtain waivers, Obama said he wants to give states “more flexibility to meet high standards.”
Despite the criticism, however, administration officials have said that No Child Left Behind offered benefits to children with disabilities by holding such students to higher standards and that’s an effort they plan to continue.
“NCLB was right to shine a bright light on achievement gaps and set a clear expectation that all students must learn to the same standards,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress in March. “This has led to great progress in schools focusing more on the needs of English learners and students with disabilities and other at-risk students.”
While many in the disability community are pleased by the enhanced focus on achievement for this group, others counter that holding students with disabilities to similar standards as their typically developing peers is unrealistic.