As students and educators go back to school across the country, and as Congress continues to debate how to fix the law commonly known as No Child Left Behind, the U.S. Department of Education announced today that states whose waivers from certain provisions of federal education law will expire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year will soon be able to request renewals of their reform plans, for up to two more years.
Extending their waivers through 2016 will allow these 34 eligible states and the District of Columbia to continue moving forward on their ambitious but achievable plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and school leadership. The Department's renewal process, which will begin in January 2014, will also provide an opportunity for states to make necessary adjustments to their approved plans for improving student learning and the quality of instruction.
"America's most sweeping education law--the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind--is outmoded and constrains state and district efforts for innovation and reform. The smartest way to fix that is through a reauthorized ESEA law, but Congress has not agreed on a responsible bill," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "Therefore, the federal government has worked with states to develop waiver agreements that unleash local leaders' energy for change and ensure equity, protect the most vulnerable students, and encourage standards that keep America competitive. The waiver renewal process announced today will support states in continuing positive change and ensuring all children receive a high-quality education -- but I look forward to a day when we can announce a new ESEA law that supports every state."
Thirty four states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia applied for and received waivers for the 2012-2013 school year. Those waivers are set to expire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. (The renewal process only applies to the 34 states listed and the District of Columbia. The remaining states are not yet eligible for renewal as their waivers are not nearing expiration.)
In their renewal requests, states must demonstrate that they are:
On track to meet current commitments and requirements under ESEA flexibility
Have a plan for implementing ESEA flexibility through the 2015-2016 school year
Meeting the high bar set to protect all students and support all teachers and principals under ESEA flexibility
Identifying schools and subgroups in need and ensuring they receive interventions and supports
Have resolved any outstanding monitoring findings or compliance issues in ESEA flexibility or related programs.
States seeking renewal must submit a completed renewal request form, as well as a redlined version of their current waiver requests, during one of three submission phases: Jan. 2-10, 2014 (Phase A); Jan. 22-31, 2014 (Phase B); or Feb. 12-21 (Phase C). Submissions will not be accepted after Feb. 21, 2014. The Department intends to conduct comprehensive and thorough reviews of states' requests for renewals. Determinations will be made in time for any state that is not renewed to be able to return to complying with No Child Left Behind by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.
In addition to meeting the renewal requirements, states may make any additional amendments to their current flexibility plans that they deem necessary to improve student learning and the quality of instruction. Each amendment must show that it will continue to meet the statutory requirements for a waiver and the high bar set by ESEA flexibility.
In the coming month, the Department will release additional guidance relating to the ESEA flexibility renewal process and provide states with technical assistance as they prepare their submissions.
Since NCLB was due for reauthorization in 2007, and Congress failed to act, President Obama announced in September 2011 that the Administration would provide State Education Agencies (SEAs) with flexibility regarding specific requirements of NCLB in exchange for college- and career-ready expectations for all students; differentiated accountability, including targeting the lowest-performing schools, schools with the largest achievement gaps, and other schools with performance challenges for subgroups; and teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account student growth and are used to help teachers and principals improve their practices.