Maine, Michigan Get ESEA Flexibility Renewals


Two more states have received continued flexibility from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind.

Maine and Michigan have implemented comprehensive, state-designed plans aimed at ensuring student success have shown continued commitment to college- and career-readiness for every student. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants them to keep on improving without being restricted by federal law:

“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.”

The Department has partnered with state and district leaders who have taken bold actions to improve student outcomes and to ensure equity for all students, to provide relief from some provisions of NCLB.  The Department says that under NCLB, schools had many ways in which they could fail and few opportunities to succeed. They have taken the position that the original mandate forced schools and districts into one-size-fits-all solutions, no matter the individual needs and circumstances in those places.

The flexibility plans were first granted in 2012 and allowed states to focus resources and strong interventions necessary on the lowest-performing schools. States have also concentrated on improving teacher and principal effectiveness nationwide with appropriate evaluation and support techniques used  for continual improvement of instruction, along with clear, timely, and practical feedback.

These systems can be used to recognize and reward highly effective teachers and administrators and fuel conversations about how to ensure that students from low-income families and students of color can have equitable access to effective educators. Because of these factors, Maine and Michigan will be provided with three more years of flexibility. The Department says that these two states have shown progress in terms of college- and career-ready standards and assessments, with both exhibiting rigorous systems of recognition, accountability, and support.

The Department says that states need this new round of waivers so that there is ongoing flexibility from top-down and the prescriptive provisions of the law, allowing them to continue implementing changes that ensure that all children receive a high-quality education. The renewals provide a stability for states as they continue to work on preparing all students for success in college, career, and life.

Maine has expanded outreach opportunities to ensure that all school districts have access to capacity-building activities. Now, more school districts are participating in coaching and mentoring, and principal leadership development through its Transformational Leaders Network (TLN). The network provides support for developing key skills and strategies to engage staff in the school improvement process and includes face-to-face coaching and mentoring by school improvement coaches.

Maine has also used the Cross Discipline Literacy Network to provide professional development and support for literacy in various content areas. Also, to support local educator evaluation systems, Maine is offering models for educator evaluation systems, workshops to support local implementation, and training on various aspects of educator evaluation systems.

Michigan is using a data tools and program supports to help schools make information-driven decisions as to how to help students who are falling behind. School improvement facilitators are assisting teacher teams in priority schools with an instructional learning cycle that assists teachers in the use of common assessments. Facilitators are helping educators identify which students on are on track, which students are ahead, and which students need additional support measures.

Both houses of Congress are hoping that an update to the ESEA will be finalized sometime this year, which would replace No Child Left Behind.