Obama Offers NCLB Waivers That Mirror His Blueprint for Reform

As announced in August, the White House and the Department of Education have released criteria that will allow states to seek waivers from No Child Left Behind. The goal is to provide states with relief from the NCLB mandates that education officials believe are stifling real progress toward improved student achievement.

“To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” President Obama said.

States may request flexibility in specific NCLB provisions, including:

  • Flexibility Regarding the 2013–2014 Timeline for Achieving 100 Percent Proficiency
  • Flexibility Regarding District and School Improvement and Accountability Requirements
  • Flexibility Related to the Use of Federal Education Funds

The key appears to be giving states more local control over how best to use funds to meet their needs and to allow them to support schools that are making real progress even if all schools haven’t met their ultimate performance goals yet.

In order to qualify for the waiver, the state must develop “rigorous and comprehensive plans” in three critical areas.

  1. Transitioning to College- and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments
  2. Developing Systems of Differentiated Recognition, Accountability, and Support
  3. Evaluating and Supporting Teacher and Principal Effectiveness

More important, the waiver requirements mirror important elements from Obama’s Blueprint for Reform and highlight the fact that Congress has not reauthorized the ESEA and most likely will not in this session. The Administration says this move is necessary as states cry out for relief, but House Republicans believe the President is bypassing Congress.

In August when the Obama Administration first announced its plans for NCLB waivers, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, stated his disappointment that the President was ignoring congressional efforts. While Kline and House Republicans want more local control over education, they believe that ESEA Reauthorization and relief from NCLB should be handled through the legislative process.

More information

“Bringing Flexibility and Focus to Education Law”
The White House

“Obama Administration Sets High Bar for Flexibility from No Child Left Behind in Order to Advance Equity and Support Reform”

“Obama Administration Presses Forward with Backdoor Education Reform Agenda”
House Committee on Education & the Workforce

“ESEA Reauthorization: A Blueprint for Reform”

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September 2011


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