Obama: Changes will help school law, not weaken it

photo President Barack Obama and sixth grade student Keiry Herrera of Graham Road Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., listen as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, left, speaks during an event for No Child Left Behind Reform, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, in the East Room at the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON - Decrying the state of American education, President Barack Obama today said states will get unprecedented freedom to waive basic elements of the sweeping Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, calling it an admirable but flawed effort that has hurt students instead of helping them.

Obama's announcement could fundamentally affect the education of tens of millions of children. It will allow states to scrap the requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 - a cornerstone of the law - if states meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.