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North Carolina gets 'No Child Left Behind' waiver

North Carolina has been cleared from meeting the most rigorous requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was issuing waivers to eight states, including North Carolina, in exchange for more modern state-developed accountability systems that will prepare all students for graduation and higher education.

Speaking from Connecticut, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration seeks to free states from an outdated “one-size-fits all” federal system.

“Our goal with this waiver process has always been to simply get out of the way of states and districts and figure out the best way to meet their educational needs,” Duncan said.

North Carolina officials applauded the decision, charging that No Child Left Behind had become too complicated.

State officials submitted a plan that adopts more rigorous English and math standards, increases access for students with disabilities and implements a turnaround program for the lowest-performing schools.

It also includes graduation rates as an accountability measure. Schools previously reported drop-out rates but not graduation rates.

“It makes the accountability system more easily understood than the more-complicated system before the waiver,” said June Atkinson, state superintendent of public instruction. “It also moves us away from the all-or-nothing of No Child Left Behind.”

North Carolina was one of 26 states that submitted waiver requests to the U.S. Department of Education. Eleven states had already received waivers.

No Child Left Behind has been criticized for placing too much emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests. The law also unfairly branded schools as failures if a small segment of the student population did not perform well on the tests, opponents say.

Gov. Bev Perdue said the waivers provide the state greater flexibility “to help close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the educational outcomes for all students.”

The waivers are considered a temporary solution until Congress can update the decade-old law. It has been slated for renewal since 2007.

“Congress is now five years late in fixing No Child Left Behind,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of President Barack Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council. “During that time, 3 million children have entered and graduated from high school. Our kids can’t afford to wait any longer.”