The US Department of Education has announced that Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin have received continued flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Department’s Office of Communications & Outreach declared that these seven states would be granted flexibility waivers because of the forward movement each state has shown and the efforts to improve education made by state and city leaders.
“The last six years have seen dramatic progress for America’s school children. The high school dropout rate is down, and graduation rates are higher than they have ever been,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “As a result of our partnerships with state and district leaders to couple flexibility with reform, we are seeing remarkable strides and bold actions to improve student outcomes. States, districts, principals and teachers are showing incredible creativity in using different means to achieve the same goal—getting every student in America college- and career-ready.”
In 2012, the decision was made to have the Department partner with state and district leaders to relieve schools from some provisions of NCLB as long as good faith efforts were being made on the state level to improve educational outcomes. The law was criticized as difficult to implement because of its one-size-fits-all mandates which lacked regard for the individual needs of students and the specific circumstances surrounding individual communities.
The flexibility plans allow states to continue to target strong interventions in the lowest-performing schools and to nurture the neediest students to help them meet the high expectations of ESEA in the same manner as their fellow students. Teacher and administrator development is also a focus, with evaluation and support systems to promote continued improvement of classroom instruction followed by clear, timely, and useful feedback.
The Department is aware that some states need more time to make further adjustments to their flexibility plans and complete the commitments required. These states have been given a three-year renewal to finish their preparations for the future. The flexibility allowed through this extended time gives the states the stability they need to continue the innovative programs they have developed for the purpose of preparing all students for success in college, careers, and life.
Forty-two other states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have already been given renewed flexibility, and more will be announced in coming weeks. If ESEA is reauthorized by Congress, the Department will continue to work with states to assist them in any transitioning that is necessary.
Secretary Duncan has requested that Congress create a bipartisan ESEA law that would include: giving educators the resources they need and investing in states and districts to support innovative new solutions created to increase student outcomes; investing in high-poverty schools and districts and expanding high-quality preschool; holding high expectations for all students and requiring an action plan for groups of students or schools not making progress; identifying schools that consistently come up short and dedicating extra resources and support, especially in the lowest-performing 5% of schools that struggle year after year; and addressing funding inequities for schools that serve high numbers of low-income students.