The Arkansas Education Department announced today that the Obama administration had added Arkansas to the list of states given some leeway in meeting requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The changes will allow the state to assess schools not simply on test scores. Education Director Tim Kimbrell said the changes allow the state to reward exemplary schools and direct more help to struggling schools. Significantly, instead of having 100 percent of schools judged proficient based on test scores by 2017, the state goal is to reduce “proficiency gaps” by half by 2017.

Arkansas was one of five states granted a waiver today, growing the list to 24. It’s a reaction to realization that the original NCLB goals couldn’t be met. How to fine-tune the program has been the source of continuing political wrangling.

The state release follows.