A coalition of civil rights groups is opposing efforts by Los Angeles Unified and eight other school districts to get a waiver from a federal law requiring that all students be proficient in English and math by 2014.
In a letter sent Monday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the groups say that exempting the districts from the No Child Left Behind law would create disparate systems for measuring student achievement.
"Considerable experience tells us that for low-income students, students of color, Native students, English-language learners and students with disabilities, different expectations far too often mean lowered expectations," said the letter, whose authors include Democrats for Education Reform, The Education Trust and the National Women's Law Center.
California Education Department officials have previously voiced concerns about having differing standards for individual districts.
The waiver request was filed by nine school districts that belong to CORE -- the California Office to Reform Education. They want to create their own formula for gauging success using standardized test scores, along with factors such as attendance, suspension and graduation rates.
CORE leaders have said their waiver request is about helping struggling students and not ducking NCLB's requirement that all students be proficient in English and math by 2014. Based on standardized tests, just half of the students in LAUSD are considered proficient in English and 52 percent are proficient in math.
The U.S. Department of Eduction has granted NCLB waivers to 34 states and Washington, D.C., but none at the district level.