On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act surrounded by school children and Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and John Boehner (R-OH). (26697)

The Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana Unified School Districts, along with five other districts across the state, were granted waivers today by federal education officials from meeting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Education, the districts’ schools will not have to meet the strict math and English achievement requirements of NCLB, but will adhere to a “school quality improvement system” that backers say is aimed at preparing students for college and closing achievement gaps.

“Our collective commitment to equity has never been stronger,” LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said. “The School Quality Improvement System will shine a bright light on achievement gaps and disproportionality. We will work together and hold ourselves accountable for increasing achievement for all students while eliminating disparity. We must do this to ensure a bright future for California and our communities.”

The No Child Left Behind Act has been criticized by some educators for having onerous mandates for student proficiency in math and English. With many schools not expected to meet the goals, some states have been granted waivers, but California’s application was denied due to issues with teacher evaluations and student achievement.

The eight districts joined together as a group called the California Office to Reform Education and filed their own waiver application.

District officials said the improvement system they plan to use includes multiple levels of accountability, including more transparency in student and school achievement data, self-evaluations and oversight by a panel including education experts.

Other districts in the coalition are Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Sanger.

“All California schools deserve relief from the unworkable mandates of No Child Left Behind, so it’s noteworthy that a few districts have — temporarily at least — managed to navigate the complex waiver requirements imposed by the administration,” according to Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. “I continue to believe that Congress should make it a priority to revise NCLB, and that relief from the failings of federal policy should not be reserved only for those prepared to provide Washington an ever-expanding role in the operation of California’s public schools.”