From WILL - News Headlines -

Illinois Seeks to Opt Out of NCLB Provisions

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan that would allow states to reject certain provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind act.

The measure, which was signed into law by former President George W. Bush 2002, sought to make schools more accountable for student performance and get better qualified teachers into classrooms.

But President Obama said the law's heavy reliance on annual testing isn't working, which why he announced waivers for states if they offer their own plans that meet federal testing standards.

"We can't let another generation of young people fall behind because we didn't have the courage to recognize what doesn't work, admit it, and replace it with something that does," Obama said. "Our kids only get one shot at a decent education. They cannot afford to wait any longer. So, given that Congress cannot act, I am acting."

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said the plan would not undermine efforts in Congress because the waivers could serve as a bridge until Congress acts.

The Illinois State Board of Education is looking to opt out of some of the No Child Left Behind requirements. The group's spokeswoman, Mary Fergus, said the law isn't a realistic indicator of student success. She said last year, more than half of Illinois' schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under the law

"That includes a lot of really good schools, high schools that are sometimes named among the best American high schools," Fergus said. "We have done a lot of the groundwork to be a good candidate for this waiver by adopting the standards and implementing them, passing some laws that tie student growth to teacher evaluations, and working with teachers and educators across the state on that evaluation model."

No Child Left Behind sets out a goal for all of the nation's elementary and secondary students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014, or risk losing federal funding. Duncan has said more than 80 percent of schools will not be able to meet that goal.

Angela Smith, the principal at Franklin Middle School in Champaign, was feet away from the president during his announcement about the waivers. Smith was invited with other educators to come to the White House. She said while No Child Left Behind has created more accountability in the classroom, she said it has also set up standards that rise each year and are difficult for schools to meet.

"With going through with the re-authorization, I'm hoping that they can continue to hear what's happening at the school level, and they can bring people together and come up with a solution that's going to be good for kids," Smith said. "This is an opportunity for Champaign schools to step up and say, 'Here's what we did to be accountable, here's some systems that we've put into place, here's some results and evidence.' We could really be leaders in the state, I believe."

It is expected that most states will apply for the waivers, which will be given to qualified states early next year.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)