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Obama administration to offer No Child Left Behind waivers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will provide qualifying states a waiver from No Child Left Behind after Congressional inaction on reforming the program, the Department of Education said on Monday.

President Barack Obama had called for reform to the federal education law before the start of the school year, but Congress has yet to pass any legislation, according to a Department of Education statement.

NCLB links federal educational aid to results from standardized testing, and has come under fire from critics on several fronts, among them the charge that it makes teachers focus too narrowly on material that would raise scores.

Despite a 16-month-old proposal, numerous Congressional meetings and hearings to fix NCLB have failed due to "partisan politics in the House," the statement stated.

"American's future competitiveness is being decided today, in classrooms across the nation," said Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

"With no clear path to a bipartisan bill in Congress, the President has directed us to move forward with an administrative process to provide flexibility within the law for states and districts that are willing to embrace reform."

States that seek relief from certain provisions of NCLB must demonstrate commitment to education reform, Barnes said, adding that the President's process is "not a pass on accountability."

The administration proposes to reform NCLB by a more flexible and targeted accountability system based on measuring annual student growth on college- and career-ready standards, focusing on data and quality of teachers and principles.

The final details of the "flexibility package," will be made public in September.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the current NCLB law is "forcing districts into one-size-fits-all solutions that just don't work."

"The President understands this and he has directed us to move ahead in providing relief," Duncan stated.

"We're still hopeful that Congress can continue its work this fall. In the meantime, states and districts have an opportunity to move forward."

(Reporting by Molly O'Toole; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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