State and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has heard their cry, with a waiver system that will give schools and states a break.

The goal of the No Child Left Behind law is to have every student proficient in math and reading by 2014.  States have been required to bring more students up to the math and reading standards each year, based on tests that usually take place each spring.

Duncan says the plan to offer waivers to all 50 states, as long as they meet other school reform requirements, comes at the request of President Barack Obama. More details on the waivers will come in September.

Critics say the one-size-fits-all benchmarks are unrealistic, and they brand schools as failures even if they make progress.  Schools and districts where too many kids fail the tests are subject to sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school.

Through the new waiver system, schools will get some relief from looming deadlines to meet testing goals as long as they agree to embrace other kinds of education reforms such as raising standards, helping teachers and principals improve, and focusing on fixing the lowest performing schools.

via Obama Administration Exempting Schools From Federal Law’s Testing Mandate |

Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if No Child Left Behind is not changed.  Education experts have questioned that estimate, but state officials report a growing number of schools are facing sanctions under the law.