President Barack Obama announced Friday that states can apply for waivers from parts of the No Child Left Behind law as early as this fall.
Speaking in the East Room of the White House, the president said there are serious problems with the implementation of the law.
He cited the case of one Massachusetts school which sent all of its seniors to college but was still labeled a failure under No Child Left Behind.
"We can't let another generation of young people fall behind," Obama said.
The president said the waivers won't allow schools to lower standards.
"We're going to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future because what works in Rhode Island may not be the same thing that works in Tennessee," the president said.
To receive a waiver, schools must meet certain criteria such as proving they're transitioning to "college and career ready" standards and conducting evaluations of their teachers and principals.
Some lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., insist the president is overstepping his authority. They say the administration can issue waivers but can't make them conditional upon meeting standards backed by the administration.
"This initiative is an overstep of authority that undermines existing law, and violates the constitutional separation of powers," Rubio wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan earlier this month.