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Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Requests for Delaware, Georgia, Minnesota, New York and South Carolina
"America's schools and classrooms are undergoing some of the largest changes in decades—changes that will help prepare our students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that tomorrow's economy will require," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "These extensions will allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed to improve achievement for all students."
ESEA has been due for Congressional reauthorization since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, President Obama announced in September 2011 that the administration would grant waivers from parts of the law to qualified states, in exchange for state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. The one-year extension of ESEA flexibility allows the states to continue moving forward on the ambitious work they began with their initial flexibility requests.
Since fall 2011, Delaware, Georgia, Minnesota, New York and South Carolina have implemented education reforms that go far beyond the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's rigid, top-down requirements. Examples of that work include:
- Through ESEA flexibility, Delaware enhanced its process for monitoring the lowest performing schools and work more with districts to ensure that address the needs of students that miss performance targets, including graduation rates.
- Delaware is providing extensive in-person and online support for local staff to implement its new teacher and leader evaluation and support systems, including support through targeted and frequent trainings both in-person and online for evaluators, principals and teachers.
- Through ESEA flexibility, Georgia created a comprehensive platform for school improvement, accountability, teacher effectiveness and communication that creates a roadmap for schools to significantly improve student achievement.
- Georgia added student performance in social studies and science to its statewide accountability system to provide an enriched and more complete picture for each school's accountability score.
- Georgia created a professional development program with a mix of online and in-person training to support teachers in implementing new college- and career-ready standards and established online forums to help teachers across the state share resources, lesson plans and best practices.
- Minnesota is monitoring and providing direct feedback to districts and schools to continue improvement under ESEA flexibility through new Regional Centers of Excellence. Educators meet weekly for training and to share progress reports with a state oversight committee.
- Minnesota has implemented a new system to provide data on non-academic risk factors to high schools to support improved graduation rates.
- New York built a nationally recognized online portal—Engage NY—that provides professional learning tools and resources to support educators in reaching the State's vision for a college and career ready education for all students.
- Through ESEA flexibility, New York has better aligned the funds districts will use to support focus and priority schools with the results of its Diagnostic Tool for School and District Effectiveness and improvement plans.
- To empower communities and educators to improve the quality of instruction, South Carolina has instituted an innovative set of data dashboards to track and use educational data.
- South Carolina created a new accountability system which provides school administrators, parents and communities user-friendly data on school performance. Each school receives a grade based on an A-to-F grading scale that reflects the performance of all students and subjects allowing the state to accurately target the schools most in need of improvement with truly meaningful interventions.
In order to receive an extension, states must demonstrate that they have resolved any state-specific issues and next steps as a result of the Department's monitoring, as well as any other outstanding issues related to ESEA flexibility. States could also request additional amendments to support their continuous improvement efforts. The extension is through the 2014-2015 school year. The Department is reviewing requests from states for one-year extensions to ESEA flexibility on a rolling basis and anticipates approving additional extension requests over the next several weeks.
Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently have ESEA flexibility, 35 of which expire this summer. Of those, 31 submitted an extension request. Eight other states: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, South Dakota and Virginia have been granted extensions since July 3.