Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Requests for Ohio and Michigan

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Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Requests for Ohio and Michigan

August 22, 2014

The Obama administration announced today that Ohio and Michigan have received a one-year extension for flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

“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. “This extension 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, Ohio and Michigan 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 Michigan's statewide system of support (MI Excel), priority and focus schools are provided with an array of supports, including district and/or school improvement facilitators. These facilitators are trained, prepared and employed to engage in dialogues that help schools and districts to focus on targeted interventions tied to their greatest needs.
  • In order to promote a cohesive approach to whole school turnaround in School Improvement Grant (SIG) and non-SIG priority schools, The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has captured improvement information in an online platform that all of these schools use. With this approach, MDE has experienced increased alignment among these schools each year.


  • The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) creatively engaged parents, students and families in the reforms it is implementing through a guided communication strategy that included direct, in-person outreach at the Ohio State Fair.
  • ODE has a robust monitoring tool that enables it to engage in comprehensive, electronic monitoring for each of its more than 900 school districts. Other states have recognized the usefulness of ODE's monitoring tool and ODE has shared it with twelve other states via a memorandum of understanding.

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, 32 submitted an extension request. Twenty states: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin have been granted extensions since July 3.