Hours after the White Housethat exempt them from the controversial No Child Let Behind (NCLB) education law, President Obama lauded the states for achievements he argued would pave the way for education progress going forward.
In remarks at the White House, Mr. Obama praised the states for coming up with new ways to evaluate students and teachers while continuing to raise educational standards.
"Each of these states has set higher benchmarks for student achievement, they've come up with ways to evaluate and support teachers fairly, based on more than just a set of test scores," he said.
Last year, Mr. Obama announced that he would be offering states the opportunity to apply for waivers that would allow them to opt out of regulations under NCLB if they met a certain set of conditions.
"We offered every state the same deal," Mr. Obama said on Thursday. "We said, if you're willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we're going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards. We want high standards, and we'll give you flexibility in return."
"What might work in Minnesota may not work in Kentucky, but every student should have the same opportunity to reach their potential," he added.
The first states to receive waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
"This is good news for our kids. It's good news for our country," the president said. "And I'm confident that we're going to see even more states come forward in the months ahead. Because if we're serious about helping our children reach their full potential, the best ideas aren't just going to come from here in Washington. They're going to come from cities and towns all across America, they're going to come from teachers and principle and parents."
Under the law as it currently stands, schools are graded on a pass-fail scale based on the results of standardized tests administered to students. Failing schools -- many of which serve low-income communities -- are punished, in ways that could include forcing them to replace staff or restructure the school. Some are shut down altogether or turned over to a charter operator or private firm. Critics say NCLB imposes overly inflexible federal guidelines on schools and teachers and say it effectively means abandoning "failing" institutions.
Mr. Obama said Thursday NCLB's goals were well-intentioned but "we've got to do it in a way that doesn't force teachers to teach to the test or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures."
"That doesn't help anybody," he said. "It certainly doesn't help our children in the classroom."
Arizona is the only state that sought a waiver but did not recieve it. 28 additional states -- plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico -- have signaled that they will also seek waivers.