Maryland Considering No Child Left Behind Waiver

BERLIN — A decade after the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative was mandated in public school systems across the country, the Obama administration last week announced states can apply for a waiver from the rigorous program of testing and accountability, and Maryland and the local school systems appear ready to embrace the opt out.

In 2001, Bush administration issued a mandate for greater accountability in the nation’s public school systems including higher standards, rigorous standardized testing and stringent evaluations for teachers and administrators. A decade later, the program appears to have run its course, prompting the administration to offer individual states the opportunity to opt out.

In an effort to support local and state educational reform, the president last week outlined how states can get relief from NCLB in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability and ensure all students are on track to graduate college and career ready. Under the waiver program, states would be able to request flexibility from specific mandates if they can substitute a proven program specific to each school district’s individual needs.

Already, some states are embracing the opportunity to opt out including Maryland, which has thrived under the old system and is widely considered one of the most successful state public school systems in the country. Maryland Board of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard said this week the state would likely seek the waiver once the details become clearer.

“We still haven’t decided if we are going to apply for the waiver, but we certainly like the idea of it,” he said. “There are a lot of things we like about it, and there are things we are uncertain about, but our schools have been out in front of the accountability issue and the results show that.”

Worcester County Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes agreed this week the waiver should be pursued although he was uncertain of the details.

“Worcester County is one of the few school systems in Maryland to meet all of the requirements of No Child Left Behind, but the standards continue to increase every year and the bar continues to be raised,” he said. “We are not against the bar being raised, but some of the elements of No Child Left Behind have become increasingly difficult to attain, especially in the areas of special education, for example. I hope the state does apply for relief because the local systems need some flexibility in adopting and meeting the standards.”