The NCLB waiver era will continue, as states will be able to apply to extend their exemption from provisions of the No Child Left Behind act into the 2015-16 academic year. According to the US Department of Education, recipients of previously-approved NCLB waivers scheduled to expire at the end of next year will be able to request an extension for an additional two years.
Thirty four states and the District of Columbia are eligible for such renewals. The DOE will begin to review renewal applications in January of 2014 and will use the opportunity not only to reaffirm its approval for the “achievable” plans currently being implemented, but also to advise some states on which alterations they need to make in order to meet the conditions both of their initial waivers and the extension.
“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.”
The DOE has set out a number of requirements that each state must meet in order to quality for a waiver renewal. Each state must demonstrate that they’re on track to meet the goals they set out of themselves in the initial waiver application and produce benchmarks they intend to hit by the end of the extension period. Any state that has been notified that its compliance with the terms of the initial waiver is in question must also show that any raised issues have been resolved.
The chief goal put in front of top education officials in each will state remain the same – to make sure that their students are receiving the preparation they need whether they choose to enter college or the workforce upon graduation from high school. In addition, they will continue to be required to provide both to the federal authorities and the public information on how they’re meeting this goal, and especially the aid they’re providing to at-risk groups like minority and low-income students and those requiring special education accommodation.
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.