SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Obama administration has approved Oregon's application for a waiver from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind federal education law.
The U.S. Department of Education announced the decision on Wednesday. Oregon joins 31 other states and the District of Columbia that have been allowed to waive the federal law's requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Oregon's waiver application emphasized Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to create achievement compacts spelling out the standards that school districts, colleges and universities are expected to achieve.
"The No Child Left Behind waiver is a victory for our state, our schools, and most importantly our children. By rejecting the one-size-fits-all mandates of the past, we put ourselves firmly on the path towards better educational success," Kitzhaber posted on his Facebook page Thursday morning.
Oregon's waiver is conditional, however, because the state will ultimately have to come up with a plan to evaluate teachers and administrators based in improvement in their students' performance.
State officials said the old law worked in a way that students needed to get the answer to a problem. It didn't matter if the student learned how to solve the problem. Students could simply memorize the answer for the big standardized test. State officials said under the new system, teachers will be able to help students of a variety of skill levels both solve the problem and get the answer.
Kevin Hidalgo will be affected by the new changes. He's a first-grade student who love school and his teacher.
"She let us sometimes sometimes have extra recess," he said.
Under the old system, some students like Hidalgo may have been at a disadvantage. His mother speaks only Spanish. Some students with English as a second language may take longer to learn. Under No Child Left Behind, teachers said that became a big problem as schools herded everyone to standardize tests.
Hanna Vaandering with the Oregon Education Association said the testing is taking away the ability to teach kids. The old law, she said, meant teachers could not tailor programs for students which meant children were actually left behind.
"And that's why getting away from standardized tests and talking about things that really can tell where the child is and create lesson plans for everyone of those children so they can learn," she said.
State officials said the new focus will include broader contest -- like complex thinking and skills that will help kids succeed in college and beyond.
There's no need to worry about Hidalgo, though. His mother said he is a strong student. He does well in math and science and loves school on several levels.
"Because sometimes we get to do art on Father's Day and Mother's Day and that's what I like about my school," he said. "My first grade teacher was very nice."
This is not just a free pass for Oregon. The state has to create new standards and meet them or it will go back to No Child Left Behind.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.