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Eric Brown, biology teacher at Evanston Township High School (ETHS), met with U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and their staff to address ways that states can get relief from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. Brown, who serves as the Illinois Director of the National Education Association (NEA), visited the White House on September 23 as Obama announced that serious state-led efforts are needed to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college and career-ready.

The NEA supports Obama’s overall NCLB waiver plan because students, educators, school districts and states seek ways to relieve the undue burdens caused by NCLB and its regulations. Brown’s own teaching experience pointed to issues of stifling science education with overemphasis on standardized testing instead of creative thinking and exploration. During his White House visit, Brown shared concerns about the “restricted and directed” use of Title I funds for supplementary support services for underperforming students, stating, “While they already had the waiver plan formulated, the information I provided gives them the real life examples that exemplify why the waivers are needed … because they provide the flexibility that I believe will help ETHS and all the students of Illinois.”

The new waiver proposal recognizes the realities of the teaching profession and its related complexities, allowing time for planning and piloting prior to requiring implementation of teacher and principal evaluation systems that require multiple components and don’t rely solely on student growth.

The application for waivers calls for civil rights organizations, parents and students to be involved while also guaranteeing teachers a seat at the decision-making table. States can apply by Nov. 14 if their applications are prepared or can wait until February if more time is needed to prepare. Details about President Obama’s NCLB waiver plan can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s website: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-sets-high-bar-flexibility-no-child-left-behind-order-advanc.