The number of states granted waivers from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law grew by 8, to a total of 19, when the Obama administration announced the additional waivers this week. In order to meet the requirements of the waivers, the states will have to develop and implement plans to get high school graduates college-ready and divert more of their education funding to closing the income achievement gap. The states will also have to put in place a system that would allow them to identify excellent teachers and provide resources to help them succeed. To bring more talented teachers into the classroom, the states will also be required to overhaul their teacher training programs. In addition to the 8 announced waivers, the Education Department has 18 additional waiver applications under review from 17 states and the District of Columbia.
The waivers were announced by the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a ceremony in Hartford, Connecticut, also attended by the state governor Dannel Malloy, and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, along with other local, state and federal officials. In his remarks, Duncan said that the waivers will allow the states more flexibility on how to spend federal education dollars to meet their local needs.
“These eight additional states are getting more flexibility with federal funds and relief from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all federal mandates in order to develop locally-tailored solutions to meet their unique educational challenges,” Duncan said.
He added that accountability standards developed on the state level did a better job at identifying and helping at-risk students than the processes outlined in the NCLB. The states needed to show success in making sure kids without English skills and especially special needs students don’t fall behind their peers. The waivers were approved for the states that had documented history of doing just that.
The U.S. Department of Education approved the waivers for Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
Connecticut’s plan, for example, raises the number of schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities from 276 to 683; free and reduced-price lunch students from 757 to 928; African American students from 280 to 414; Hispanic students from 356 to 548; and English learners from 97 to 209. States previously granted waivers include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The waivers come as a result of a deal between the administration officials and state lawmakers that set out the circumstances under which a state might be exempted from meeting some of the NCLB benchmarks.