President Barack Obama will announce today that ten states that have agreed to implement bold reforms around standards and accountability will receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In exchange for this flexibility, these states have agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness. The ten states approved for flexibility are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
In a White House announcement attended by state education officials, teachers, civil rights, and business leaders, the President will say that NCLB, which is five years overdue for a rewrite, is driving the wrong behaviors, from teaching to the test to federally determined, one-size-fits-all interventions. The President will call on Congress to work across the aisle to fix the law even as his administration offers solutions for states to help prepare all students for college and career readiness.
"After waiting far too long for Congress to reform No Child Left Behind, my Administration is giving states the opportunity to set higher, more honest standards in exchange for more flexibility," said President Obama. "Today, we're giving 10 states the green light to continue making reforms that are best for them. Because if we're serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren't going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work."
The administration is continuing to work closely with New Mexico, the eleventh state that requested flexibility in the first round. Twenty-eight other states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico have indicated their intent to seek waivers.
The administration's decision to provide waivers followed extensive efforts to work with Congress to rewrite NCLB. In March 2010, the administration submitted a "blueprint for reform" to Congress and has met extensively with Republican and Democratic legislators.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that current law drives down standards, weakens accountability, causes narrowing of the curriculum and labels too many schools as failing. Moreover, the law mandates unworkable remedies at the federal level instead of allowing local educators to make spending decisions.
"Rather than dictating educational decisions from Washington, we want state and local educators to decide how to best meet the individual needs of students," said Duncan.
To get flexibility from NCLB, states must adopt and have a plan to implement college and career-ready standards. They must also create comprehensive systems of teacher and principal development, evaluation and support that include factors beyond test scores, such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback.
States receiving waivers no longer have to meet 2014 targets set by NCLB but they must set new performance targets for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps. They also must have accountability systems that recognize and reward high-performing schools and those that are making significant gains, while targeting rigorous and comprehensive interventions for the lowest-performing schools. Under the state-developed plans, all schools will develop and implement plans for improving educational outcomes for underperforming subgroups of students. State plans will require continued transparency around achievement gaps, but will provide schools and districts greater flexibility in how they spend Title I federal dollars.