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Federal Education Programs » NCLB/ESEA Waivers

Waiver Watch

On August 8, 2011 President Obama directed the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to “move forward with plans to provide flexibility to states,” which are looking for greater relief under the No Child Left Behind law. Since this announcement, the Center on Education Policy began tracking current developments relating to the federal government's decision to offer regulatory flexibility from some provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), most recently amended in 2002 by the No Child Left Behind Act.  For background information about this process and authority, see the CEP papers “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Secretary of Education's Plan to Waive Major ESEA Requirements” (**updated 2/17/12**) and "Frequently Asked Questions About State Accountability Plans and Their Relationship to Waivers." For additional background information, see the Useful Resources page. 

President Obama's statement on September 23rd, 2011 established a formal process under which states could apply for flexibility from certain provisions of NCLB/ESEA. According to the U.S. Department of Education's website, states were asked to inform the Department by October 12, 2011 if they intend to apply for flexibility and for which deadline they would submit their application. The map below tracks the applications submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) by various states starting October 12, 2011, which marked the beginning of this new, comprehensive policy. On August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education announced that states whose approved waivers will expire in 2013-14 are eligible to request renewals. We will update the map with links as they are made public, so check this page frequently for the most current information. Relevant developments that occurred prior to October 12 are documented on the page Information on Flexibility PRIOR to October 12, 2011.


In January of 2013 the U.S. Department of Education released a set of materials that provide an overview of the waiver process, including a brochure and five companion fact sheets. These and other related materials are posted online at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/

On November 14, 2013 the U.S. Department of Education announced several changes to the waiver renewal process that was announced in August 2013. For example, according to the November annoucement, states’ renewal applications will no longer be required to show that they are using evidence-based approaches to professional development services funded by ESEA Title II funds, nor will states have to use information from teacher evaluation systems to make determinations about whether poor and minority students receive instruction from less-effective teachers at higher rates than other students. In addition, the waiver renewals will be valid for one year, rather than the original two-year extension proposed in August 2013.

On May 9, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education notified state education chiefs that the Department will make waiver extension decisions based on states' progress towards Principle  1 (college and career-ready expectations for all students) and Principle 2 (state developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support) and will separately review state actions around Principle 3 (supporting effective instruction and leadership) to determine if adequate progress is being made in the development and implementation of teacher and principal evaluation systems.

On July 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education notified state education chiefs that the Department will offer targeted flexibility (for one year) to states that need extra support in meeting the requirements of Principle 3 (supporting effective instruction and leadership). The Department will also grant longer waiver extensions to states that meet the requirements of Principle 3 in the 2014-15 school year.

Tracking State Requests for Waivers AFTER October 12, 2011

Click on each state for a record of the waiver process and latest developments in that state


As of August 28, 2014 there are 42 states plus Washington, D.C. (colored green) and 8 CORE districts in California that have had their waiver applications approved by ED and will receive flexibility from certain aspects of ESEA in return for the conditions outlined in their applications. 2 states (colored red), Iowa and California, had applications denied but Iowa will continue to work on its application. Eight CORE districts in California have approved waivers. 1 state, Wyoming, (colored blue) submitted an application on February 28, 2013 and is still under review by ED. 2 states (colored magenta), Vermont and North Dakota, withdrew their applications and Montana has announced that they will not seek a waiver under the regulations laid out by ED in September of 2011. 1 state (colored gray), Washington, had its waiver revoked on April 24, 2014.


**For a summary and analysis of the waiver applications and related reports, please see the Related CEP Papers posted on this page.
**

If you have suggestions or updates for this webpage, please e-mail us at cep-dc@cep-dc.org, and include the appropriate references or documentation, where applicable, in your message.

       

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Waiver Watch Panel Discussion

Author(s): Center on Education Policy
Published: March 14, 2013

On March 4th, 2013 the Center on Education Policy (CEP) at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development released States' Perspectives on Waivers: Relief from NCLB, Concern about Long-term Solutionsa state survey report offering insight on states' early experiences with No Child Left Behind waivers.

On March 14, 2013 CEP held an event to discuss the findings of this report by key thought leaders and representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and Capitol Hill. The first panel addressed the impact of the waivers on student learning, teacher evaluation, Common Core State Standards, and other critical policy decisions.  The second panel debated the implications of the waivers on the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  More than 80 attendees from education & policy organizations participated in the event. 

Program and Panelists

Welcoming remarks and moderator: Maria Ferguson, Executive Director, CEP

Review of findings from CEP Report: Jennifer McMurrer, Senior Research Associate, CEP

Panel I Federal Waivers: State Planning and Impact

  • Peter Zamora, Director of Federal Relations, Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Joan Wodiska, Committee Director, Education and Workforce Committee, National Governors Association
  • Daria Hall, Director of K-12 Policy Development, The Education Trust
  • Michele McNeil, Assistant Editor, Education Week
  • Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education

Panel II Federal Waivers and ESEA reauthorization

  • Jamie Fasteau, Senior Education Policy Advisor, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor
  • Bill Knudsen, Education Policy Advisor, Senator Lamar Alexander
  • Michael Gamel-McCormick, Senior K-12 Education Policy Advisor, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Brad Thomas, Senior Education Policy Advisory, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce


View Meeting

States’ Perspectives on Waivers: Relief from NCLB, Concern about Long-term Solutions

Author(s): Jennifer McMurrer and Nanami Yoshioka
Published: March 4, 2013

This report describes states’ early experiences in applying for flexibility from key requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as NCLB waivers, and their plans for implementing the new systems outlined in their applications.  Findings from the 38 survey states indicate states believe that the waivers address several of the problems they see with the NCLB accountability requirements, however, many state officials are concerned about what will happen to the programs and policies in their waiver plans if ESEA is reauthorized. These and other key findings that emerged from the survey results are presented in this report.

View Report

NCLB Waivers and Accountability

Author(s): Wayne Riddle and Nancy Kober
Published: October 2, 2012

These two reports examine issues related to the accountability systems that approved waiver states have created with the Obama Administration's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) waiver requirements. The first report, What Impact Will NCLB Waivers Have on the Consistency, Complexity, and Transparency of State Accountability Systems?, compares the new accountability provisions in the waiver states with those in the NCLB statute. The report focuses on the complexity, transparency, and consistency of the new accountability systems in the waiver states, both on their own terms and in comparison with the NCLB statutory requirements. The second report, Accountability Issues to Watch under NCLB Waivers, highlights issues to lookout for over the next few years as states with waivers implement new accountability systems. For each of the issues discussed, the possible implications for public education systems, teachers, and students are considered.

View Report

Major Accountability Themes of Second-Round State Applications for NCLB Waivers

Author(s): Wayne Riddle
Published: May 8, 2012

This report analyzes the NCLB waiver applications submitted in the second round by 26 states and Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Department of Education in February 2012. Among the findings in the report is that, like the first round of applications, these states are proposing new accountability systems that will lead to greater complexity both within states and between states, but at the same time will be more integrated with states’ own existing accountability systems. Also, nearly all the state applications propose annual achievement targets and performance levels that are more nuanced than what is currently in place under NCLB. At the same time, 19 of the 27 applications analyzed will use a combined subgroup for accountability decisions, rather than all of the student subgroups mandated under NCLB. None of the states analyzed will continue to require school choice and SES in schools identified for improvement, as is currently mandated.

View Report

Major Accountability Themes of Approved State Applications for NCLB Waivers

Author(s): Wayne Riddle
Published: March 8, 2012

This report analyzes the NCLB waiver applications submitted by the first 11 states to the U.S. Department of Education in November 2011. Among the findings in the report are that these states are proposing new and complex accountability systems which they assert will respond to local needs and better identify schools that need assistance.  Also, nearly all the state applications would base accountability decisions on the achievement of just two student groups: all students and a single “disadvantaged” group. This is a departure from the current NCLB policy, which holds schools accountable for the performance of numerous subgroups of students, ranging from major racial and ethnic groups to students with disabilities.

View Report

Preliminary Findings about Waivers: CEP Survey of State Education Agency Officials

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner and Nancy Kober
Published: December 20, 2011

In the fall of 2011, CEP surveyed state education agency officials about the need for waivers of the accountability provisions under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act. The state officials surveyed said the waivers are greatly needed and generally agree that the four principles that must be met in order for a state to receive a waiver will improve student learning in their state.

View Report

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Secretary of Education’s Plan to Waive Major ESEA Requirements

Author(s): Wayne Riddle
Published: September 29, 2011

This document answers some frequently asked questions about the U. S. Secretary of Education’s authority to grant waivers of Elementary and Secondary Education Act requirements, including how that process works under current provisions, which requirements can currently be waived, and how often this authority has been used in the past.

View Report

Frequently Asked Questions about State Accountability Plans and Their Relationship to Waivers

Author(s): Wayne Riddle
Published: September 16, 2011

This document answers some frequently asked questions about accountability plans that states are required to develop under the No Child Left Behind Act. These plans outline each state’s policies for implementing NCLB’s accountability provisions and timelines for meeting student achievement goals, including the goal of all students reaching proficiency by school year 2013-14. U.S. Department of Education approval of state amendments to these accountability plans is another way for federal government to give states some flexibility in implementing certain NCLB provisions.

View Report
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