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Florida offers look at problems with education law

  
  
  

By almost any measure, Norma Butler Bossard Elementary is a top performing school in Miami: It has consistently been rated an `A’ by the state, and students have achieved high scores on Florida’s standardized math and reading exams.

Yet when it comes to the federal No Child Left Behind law, the school hasn’t lived up to expectations. Last year, 79 percent of students had to be at grade level in reading and 80 percent in math. Overall, the students exceeded those goals. But two groups — English language learners and the economically disadvantaged — did not.

"This is a crystallization of the challenge,’’ said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Responding to an outcry from the states and congressional inaction on rewriting the law, President Barack Obama on Thursday told 10 states, including Florida, that they will be freed from the strictest elements of the law, including the requirement that all students be up to par in math and reading by 2014. In exchange for flexibility, states had to present individualized plans aimed at ensuring all students leave school ready for college and career. The plans must set new achievement targets, rewarding high performing schools and focusing on those that are struggling.

“We can combine greater freedom with greater accountability,’’ Obama said at the White House.

Florida, home to several of the nation’s largest school districts, offers a look into what went wrong with the law and why states are now clamoring for relief.

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