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Best news since Romney denied re-writing his book to appease the RatBaggers:

President Obama unveiled the most significant changes to U.S. education policy in a decade, using his executive authority to give states more flexibility to opt of some provisions of the controversial No Child Left Behind program that was a signature initiative of President George W. Bush.

"We can't let another generation of young people fall behind," Mr. Obama told an audience of education leaders in the East Room of the White House.

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Most states are expected to apply for the waiver, which would give them more control over how they deal with troubled schools.

All I can say is "Thank God." Rather than turn our kids into automatons and forcing teachers to forego actual teaching as opposed to "teaching the test" just to keep their schools afloat is change I can believe in.

Predictably, some Republicans are voicing their newly-found concern about the exercise of Executive powers.

But some members of Congress are already reacting negatively to Obama's move to do this with his executive power rather than through legislation. Some believe that Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are assuming too much power this way.

Obama said Friday morning that he has no other choice. His team has been working with Congress for several months to try and remedy the problems without success.

"Congress has not been able to fix these flaws so far," Obama said, "so I will."

The vast majority of states are expected to apply for waivers. Those that receive them won't be required to have all students proficient by 2014, but will be instructed to set "ambitious but achievable goals."  Under the waivers individual states will still be accountable for student achievement.

To qualify, states must meet three tests. First is the rigorous evaluation system for teachers and principals.

Second, they must set high achievement standards. Under existing law, states can set their own standards, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said many set the bar too low. Under the new waiver program, students who meet standards must be considered ready for college or a career.

Third, states must develop strategies targeted to the worst-performing schools. For the bottom 5% of schools, that means turnaround plans akin to those under the existing rules. Other interventions must be targeted to another 10% of schools deemed low-performing.

Obama's plan will basically throw out the requirement that every student pass state tests by the 2013-2014 school year, and let states draft their own plans to improve the performance of struggling students in troubled schools.

Schools will not necessarily get failing grades for missing particular goals on state achievement tests, and states will be eligible for more flexibility in how they spend federal money previously marked for special tutoring programs.

As someone with kids in the public school system I cannot overemphasize the importance of this and how grateful I am to our President.  The pernicious effects of this misguided law have been a weight around the necks of both parents and teachers throughout the nation.

And while this is a powerful step in the right direction, the battle is far from over.

The American Federation of Teachers reaction is guarded, as the waivers continue to require teacher performance evaluations to be tied in part to student test performance.

Indeed, the American Federation of Teachers—the more moderate of the two major teachers’ unions—issued a statement from its president, Randi Weingarten, this morning that pushed back on this third component, saying, “Teacher evaluation systems should be based on continuous improvement and support, not on simply sorting, and it’s a missed opportunity not to follow their lead.”

Hopefully by "localizing" the problem of student education parents whose children are living the reality of this regimen will find their interests united with the teachers who have struggled with the NCLB, contact their local and state representatives and Senators and develop workable solutions in their state for the benefit of all children.  State reps and Senators do not enjoy being on the receiving end of complaints about school practices.  It's a visible and concrete issue that impacts them directly, and it's a huge motivator for parents.

Originally posted to Dartagnan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 08:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

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