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Each year the standards in place by the No Child Left Behind Act increase, as does the pressure on schools to perform.

Now the U.S. Department of Education has granted Alabama’s request to freeze the requirements to 2011 levels, at 88%. In 2012 it was supposed to rise to 96%.

School administrators claim the annual increase in the percentage of how many students must pass standardized tests cause more schools to fall short each year.

“To think we would be as a nation 100% in 2014 with our reading and math is pie in the sky,” said Topper Birney, a member of the Huntsville City School Board.

The standards apply to all groups of students, broken down into sub-groups by race, economic background, or special education status.

School administrators believe that is one reason schools increasingly underperformed.

“Your most gifted children are being graded right along with your children with special needs,” said Birney.” And some of your special needs children will never be able to handle the math and reading levels that are expected of them.”

As of August 2011, 27% of Alabama public schools weren’t meeting Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. Thirty-eight percent fell short nationwide.

The freeze in Alabama will last for one year. In that time, Birney believes it will help schools fill in the gaps created by the rising standards.

“It’s going to give us a chance to look and come up with more realistic goals. Goals that are attainable. Not only as a state but as a nation.”