Texas says it will seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to avoid federal accountability standards imposed by the No Child Left Behind law.
President Obama said states could apply for waivers after Congress failed to reform the Bush-Era law. Now, Texas joins the more than 30 states in taking the President up on the offer.
Texas failed to meet the goal of having 83 percent of kids pass standardized tests in math and 87 percent pass in reading, and the expectation will only rise. By 2014, No Child Left Behind expects 100 percent of students to pass standardized tests.
"We think it’s time for Congress to set some more realistic goals, because we have children that have just arrived here, who don't speak English, who weren't educated at all in their home countries, and to expect them all to pass a test in a matter of months is quite an expectation," Ratcliffe said.
The TEA says the federal system simply doesn't work for Texas. It’s an issue so urgent that newly-appointed Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced the waiver request only three days into his job.
"We decided to seek this waiver because it will allow us, if granted, to get out from under some of the most strenuous standards of the No Child Left Behind Act," Ratcliffe said.
The state had been one of 11 nationwide not to seek reprieve from some mandates of the law. Education officials said they were reluctant because they feared the federal government might eventually impose a national curriculum.
This move means the federal government will step away from assessing Texas schools and leave the job solely to the state.
TEA officials say it's more than prepared for that. Texas launched its state accountability system in 1993, eight years before No Child Left Behind came along.
"We've been at the forefront of those issues, so we had very robust, active systems, and this got overlaid on top of it," Ratcliffe said.
The TEA will craft the waiver application this fall, and is asking families and teachers to join the dinner table discussion about where Texas stands when the grades come in.
Although U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered states a special waiver program to get out of No Child Left Behind, Texas is taking its own path.
The TEA is choosing to bypass the program and instead is applying under a general provision that gives the Education Secretary authority to waive certain rules. The move is riskier, but if approved, it would come with fewer strings attached.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.