The Obama administration today approved eight California school districts (Fresno Unified, Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, Sacramento City Unified, San Francisco Unified, Sanger Unified, and Santa Ana Unified) for a one year district waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), in exchange for locally developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. These eight districts submitted a joint request for waivers as part of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE).
Earlier this year, California notified the Department that the state did not plan to request Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility for the 2013-2014 school year and instead will focus on implementing its new college- and career-ready standards. As a result, the Department considered a separate request for waivers from the CORE districts, which together serve over one million students - more students than most states. These districts are leading the way for their state in moving forward with higher standards for all students, particularly English Learners, students with disabilities, and low-achieving students. Since California adopted new standards in 2010, these districts have created shared plans for implementation, systems to improve instruction and promote continuous learning, and joint professional development and supports for teachers. With their new accountability system, the districts will hold themselves and their schools accountable for the performance of thousands more students in underserved subgroups than under NCLB, including approximately 23,000 additional African American students, 15,000 Hispanic students, 20,000 English Learners, 10,000 low-income students, and 46,000 students with disabilities. Teachers and leaders in these districts will also receive more meaningful feedback on their practice through new evaluation systems designed to support improved instruction and increase student learning. As a result of these rigorous plans, the Department is granting the eight districts flexibility from some of NCLB's restrictive mandates to allow them to better focus on key reforms to improve student achievement and increase the quality of instruction.
"The CORE districts have been engaged in collaboration and innovation designed to promote deep student learning and effective implementation of new standards that will prepare students for college and a career," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "The districts' approved plan includes key accountability components that when implemented will surpass the rigor of the current NCLB system and provide an opportunity to expand innovative interventions and practices that can improve student achievement, rather than spending time and resources implementing NCLB's one-size-fits-all mandates. The significance of their willingness to step up, and for the first time, hold themselves accountable for literally tens of thousands of children who were invisible under NCLB cannot be overstated."
The Department is approving the CORE districts for a one-year waiver from six ESEA requirements and their associated regulatory, administrative and reporting requirements. These waivers are authorized under ESEA section 9401, and are being granted directly to the districts participating in CORE, and not to the CORE organization itself.
The Department will closely monitor the districts' implementation of their plans, and will work with the California Department of Education, the California State Board of Education, and the CORE districts to develop an integrated monitoring strategy.