Assembly Passes Bill to Allow 'No Child' Opt-Out

By Maria Glod and Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 9, 2008

RICHMOND, March 8 -- Virginia's Board of Education would be directed to recommend whether the state should pull out of a federal school accountability system under legislation that cleared the General Assembly Saturday. It now awaits consideration by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

Virginia is among several states in which officials have argued that the federal government has failed to provide enough funding and flexibility to carry out the No Child Left Behind law, which requires annual testing in math and reading for many children.

The measure that passed the House on Friday and the Senate on Saturday would not have an immediate impact. If the Board of Education recommends withdrawal from the federal accountability system, the bill would require the board to present a plan to the governor and legislature by June 30, 2009.

Congress is considering whether to amend the 6-year-old federal law. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has said he plans to introduce a bill this spring.

The federal law requires annual testing in grades three through eight and once in high school. Schools and school systems must show annual progress, and the results must include scores for subgroups of students such as ethnic minorities, disabled students and those with limited English skills.

The law has been credited with revealing pockets of struggling students. But states and localities have complained they are stuck with too much of the cost. Some also argue that the law is too rigid.

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit revived a lawsuit by the National Education Association and several school systems that challenged the law as an unfunded mandate. The U.S. Education Department is appealing.

Glod reported from Washington.

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