ALBANY -- Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree breathed a sigh of relief Thursday after learning that Georgia was one of 10 states that have been granted No Child Left Behind waivers by President Barack Obama.
State School System Superintendent John Barge had vigorously lobbied for the waiver, citing NCLB's unrealistic expectations and strict requirements.
"This (waiver) will give us some flexibility in what we are trying to do with our curriculum and with our College and Career Academy," Murfree said. "This will help us keep kids in school. We've been saying all along that one size does not fit all. It still holds us to high academic standards, but the flexibility is great."
The first 10 states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The only state that applied for the waiver and was refused, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval.
A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers -- a sign of just how vast the law's burdens have become as a big deadline nears.
No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Obama's action strips away that fundamental requirement for those approved for flexibility, provided they offer a viable alternative plan.
Under the deal, the states must show they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.
"After just quickly reading over the language (of the waiver), it looks like they have changed some terminology and the way we identify and assess some kids," Terrell County School Superintendent Robert Aaron said. "But we are fine with the waiver because we can work with this."
Critics say NCLB's 2014 deadline was unrealistic, the law too rigid -- leading many to teach the test -- and too many schools have been labeled "failures."
Under No Child Left Behind, schools that don't meet requirements for two years or longer face increasingly tough consequences, including busing children to higher-performing schools, offering tutoring and replacing staff.
"It's about time we started thinking out of the box -- don't pigeonhole us." Murfree said. "We still have a finish line. We can't relax. We're not going to take it easy. We're going to move forward because we still have goals and plans.
"I give Dr. Barge and his team all the credit for what they've done. This (waiver) is really going help us."