SEATTLE -- The Obama administration said Friday that two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, will be exempted from many requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" education law.

The decision brings to 26 the number of states granted waivers as Congress remains at a stalemate regarding an overhaul to former President George W. Bush's signature accomplishment. With more than half of the states now free from many of the law's requirements, there are questions about its future.

The Education Department began granting the waivers in February in exchange for promises from states to improve how they prepare and evaluate students. The executive action by Obama is part of an ongoing effort to act on his own when Congress is rebuffing him.

The administration says the waivers are a temporary measure while Education Secretary Arne Duncan continues to work with Congress to rewrite the law, which is formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

"A strong, bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act remains the best path forward in education reform, but as 26 states have now demonstrated, our kids can't wait any longer for Congress to act," Duncan said in a statement released Friday.

The 10-year-old federal "No Child Left Behind" law requires all students to achieve proficient math and reading scores by 2014, a goal that many educators say is impossible.

Members of both parties say the law is broken but have been unable to agree on how to fix it. While it has been praised for focusing on the performance of minorities, low-income students, English-language learners and special-education students, it has also led to a number of schools being labeled as "failing." Critics say the law has had the unintended effect of encouraging instructors to teach to the test and has led schools to narrow their curricula.

Other waiver applications are still pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

In order to get a waiver, each state had to promise to show in other ways that its students and schools are improving, and they were required to more closely link teacher evaluations to student test scores, among other requirements.

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