In Nebraska, where 87% of students meet federal goals in math and reading, teachers are given free reign over curriculum, school districts are allowed to create their own tests of student progress and students must write essays rather than just fill in bubbles when tested. "We just told the [U.S.] Department of Education that ... high-stakes testing isn't the way to do it," says Doug Christensen, Nebraska's education commissioner. "We told them we would show them that we had a better way."

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