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Alaska, Hawaii, W. Virginia get No Child Left Behind waivers

Three more states have received waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to free them from many of the requirements of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era federal education law.

Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia join 37 other states and D.C. in getting relief from No Child Left Behind, in exchange for agreeing to make changes in education policy endorsed by the Obama administration. The states have agreed to prepare students for college and career, better focus aid on the neediest students and boost effective teaching and school leadership, according to the administration.

Eight other states, in addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Puerto Rico, have also requested waivers and are waiting for a decision. They are Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming.

The three states that have not yet requested waivers are California, Montana and Nebraska. Two states - North Dakota and Vermont - sought waivers but then withdrew their requests.

Congress was due to reauthorize No Child Left Behind in 2007, but has made little progress despite broad, bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill that the law needs an overhaul.

Governors, school administrators and teachers across the country clamoured for relief from the law, which they said was outdated and punitive. Starting in 2011, the Obama administration began issuing waivers to free states from some of the law’s toughest requirements, including that schools prepare every student to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or risk escalating sanctions.

“Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia can’t wait any longer for education reform,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. Rewriting the law remains “the best path forward in education reform, but as these states have demonstrated, our kids can’t wait any longer for Congress to act.”

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.

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