Pennsylvania has not yet decided whether it will ask the federal government to grant changes in the No Child Left Behind law that would allow schools to delay meeting test-score and other requirements, an Education Department spokesman said Friday.
State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, who played a key role in enforcing the law when he was a Bush administration official, said he had "reservations" about the changes announced Friday.
New Jersey officials praised the Obama administration's plan to allow states to waive some provisions. State Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf stood beside U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as he outlined the changes. Cerf called the announcement "a transformative moment in public education," adding that New Jersey was eager to take part.
Duncan said states would have to apply for waivers and vow to carry out some new mandates to get them.
Tomalis helped enforce No Child Left Behind during the Bush administration.
Last year in an interview, he defended the 2014 goal for all students to be learning at grade level, saying "the target was just fine" and many schools should be achieving at higher levels.
Tomalis spokesman Tim Eller did not go into detail about Duncan's plan, saying only that the state had "reservations" about the waivers, and to apply for them, it would have to "agree to implement the Obama administration's education agenda."
He added: "Although there are areas of the waiver program that the department could support, such as teacher accountability, further review of the waiver requirements is necessary before the secretary makes a final determination."
Many area school officials, while saying they welcomed the law's challenge to raise student achievement, had problems with how it would be carried out.
Several superintendents who chafed over having schools labeled as failing because one or another group of students did not meet annual benchmarks said they welcomed Duncan's proposal.
"This sounds much more practical, sensible, and realistic," said Superintendent Louis DeVlieger of the Upper Darby School District. "Labeling schools as failing when they aren't is very unsettling - if this can get us away from that, it would be a very good thing."
"It's a much more fair system when, if you can show that you can help students grow in achievement, you are rewarded for that," said Daniel McGarry, Upper Darby assistant superintendent.
Told that Tomalis had not decided whether to apply for the waivers, DeVlieger said: "These are sensible approaches - I would urge the state to support this."
Philadelphia officials were not available for immediate comment, a district spokesman said.