Eight large urban school districts in California will open the school year with new flexibility to reduce the emphasis on standardized tests and set their own standards for student success, under an unprecedented waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act that the U.S. Department of Education granted on Tuesday.

The districts, which include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, will also have more freedom to decide how to spend about $150 million in federal funds meant to help low-income and low-performing students.