Seven states have received extended waivers from No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2006 but continues to regulate US education policy.
Critics of the law say the amount of testing required is unacceptable and that it punishes schools inordinately by labeling them with a failing grade. The Associated Press reports the Obama Administration started issuing waivers for dozens of states to allow them to avoid some of the law’s most stringent requirements when it became apparent that they could not be met.
Tennessee, Alaska, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Utah, and Oregon are each receiving more years of flexibility, according to the US Department of Education. The department says each one of the states is taking the appropriate and necessary steps to ensure that all children have the educational opportunities they deserve.
These states are receiving waivers from NCLB because they have “designed and implemented comprehensive plans to ensure student success and have shown continued commitment to college-and-career-preparedness.”
“The last six years have seen dramatic progress for America’s school children,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a press release on Thursday. “The high school dropout rate is down, and graduation rates are higher than they have ever been.”
Tennessee received a four-year flexibility extension. Indiana, Alaska, Oregon, New Jersey, and Maryland each received three years of flexibility. Utah received the renewal requested by its State Office of Education for one year.
“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,” Duncan said. “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 first flexibility waiver was granted. Since that time, the Education Department has teamed with state leaders and school districts to allow relief from some of the more stringent provisions in the NCLB law. What was expected in return was that leaders take bold actions toward ensuring student success, and states are continuing to focus on helping low-performing schools and providing assistance to the students most in need.
“Each of these states is making progress when it comes to college- and career-ready standards and assessments, rigorous differentiated systems of recognition, accountability and support, and teacher and principal evaluation and support systems,” the Department said in the press release. “They’re taking important steps toward ensuring that every child has the opportunity they deserve.”
In a press release, the Department added that states have focused on improving teacher and principal effectiveness across the country with evaluation and support systems that are used for continual improvement of instruction and provide clear, timely and useful feedback, including that which identifies needs and guides professional development.
These systems also can be used to recognize and reward highly effective educators, as well as to inform important conversations about ensuring equitable access to effective teachers for students from low-income families and students of color. The waivers are necessary because states need stability as they continue to work on giving every child a chance at success in college, careers, and life.
The Chattanoogan reports that the waiver renewal was important for schools to allow Tennessee to establish and put into place an accountability system and move away from the rigid Adequate Yearly Progress model that NCLB established. Tennessee is the only state that was given an additional four years of flexibility based on its improvement in educational outcomes.