By 2014 every student in America is supposed to be proficient in math and reading. That was the goal of No Child Left Behind. But the Department of Education says most schools in the United States will not meet that requirement and that is why Education Secretary Arne Duncan is offering the waivers.
Some of Oakland's new teachers met Tuesday with senior staff to prepare for the beginning of the school year. For the first time in 10 years, their schools may be exempt from the tough requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"This waver would allow us to expand and have more constructive learning as opposed to just a real narrow focus on testing in some specific areas," Oakland Unified School District spokesperson Troy Flint said.
Under the 2001 law, every year, students are given a standardized test. Their scores determine whether a school is making the grade. If a school isn't, it may face sanctions.
"It's made it a test driven environment and these tests truly do not reflect what is happening in the classrooms," Oakland teacher Mark Zucker said.
The Obama administration realizes not every student will be proficient in math and reading by 2014, a goal set by former President George w. Bush. In addition to that, Congress has yet to pass Obama's long-awaited overhaul of No Child Left Behind.
That's why the Department of Education is recommending that states apply for a waiver.
But there is a catch. The states must also agree to education reforms imposed by the White House like tougher evaluation systems for teachers and principals and programs that address the achievement gap for minority students.
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is not yet on board.
"I will look carefully what condition the Department of Education will be putting on waivers, but I don't think they should tie our hands; they should look at trusting each state," Torlakson said.
In the meantime, Torlakson's department Tuesday presented a 31-page report on how to improve the 9,800 schools in California, including improving teacher quality. But the report emphasizes the need for more school funding.
"I'm all out for us going out to the voters and asking for additional revenues to build back some of the budgets that have been devastated by the last three years of cuts," Torlakson said.
As for the proposed waivers, California will need to apply in the fall. Duncan says more details will be given in September.