Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Requests for Six States

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Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Requests for Six States

October 9, 2014

The Obama Administration announced today that Arizona, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah 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.

The states being granted extensions today have implemented education reforms that go far beyond ESEA's rigid, top-down requirements. Examples of that work include:


  • The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has established SMART goals and objectives as part of ADE's strategic plan to ensure accountability in implementing the principles of ESEA flexibility. ADE generates monthly reports on progress towards these goals and objectives, and ADE's leadership convenes on a quarterly basis to monitor progress.
  • Through the Governor's College and Career Ready Program, ADE convened high school teachers and community college faculty to discuss and collaborate on what it means to be college ready to ensure that students are actually college ready and that both groups have the same understanding. Teachers and faculty compared curricula at the high school and college levels and discussed expectations for college readiness.
  • To support focus schools in targeting interventions to address schools' needs, ADE's Office of Exceptional Student Services (ESS) reviewed focus schools, which were identified based on the performance of the bottom quartile of students, for high concentrations of students with disabilities within that bottom quartile. ESS created a grant program specifically for these schools to be able to target interventions toward supporting students with disabilities.


  • The Massachusetts office of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) formally evaluates many aspects of its implementation and makes changes based on those evaluations. Based on annual evaluations of district implementation of ESE's college- and career-ready standards, ESE released more than 100 model curriculum units and is currently conducting a more thorough evaluation of six districts that report a high level of success with implementation of these standards.
  • ESE won a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs to provide professional development through ESE's statewide system of support. ESE worked with its partners (e.g., the Federation for Children with Special Needs) to build this system and to help solicit parental feedback on ESE's plans to redesign its district and school accountability report cards.
  • ESE uses its data system for teaching and learning (i.e., EDWIN analytics) to produce customized reports for teachers based on their students' performance.


  • Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE) implemented school-based data teams of teachers of core subjects and state education staff in the priority and focus schools. These teams develop school accountability plans and meet regularly to analyze and discuss student progress in English language arts and math, and to share best instructional practices.
  • MDESE partnered with the National Institute for School Leadership to launch the Missouri Leadership for Excellence, Achievement and Development program that focuses on enhancing leadership skills of principals and district staff working in focus schools. Training, which began in January 2013 and concluded in July 2014, focused on developing systemic processes for sustained school improvement, empowering instructional leadership teams, building collaborative learning and decision-making cultures, and coaching teachers on the use of outcome data to drive instructional improvements.
  • MDESE posted model curricula and sample formative assessments for all K-12 grade levels in math and English language arts to support educators and students transitioning to college- and career-ready (CCR) standards.


  • The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is engaged in ongoing collaboration with professional organizations, such as the Oregon Education Association (OEA) and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA), to support the implementation of reforms that are part of Oregon's ESEA flexibility request, including the transition to and implementation of college- and career-ready standards and supports for teachers and leaders.
  • With support from a new state legislative initiative (Senate Bill 3233), Oregon is aligning its work related to the implementation of college- and career-ready standards, and its educator evaluation system through the creation of regional and district Professional Learning Teams, which will guide district implementation and support alignment in these two areas.
  • ODE actively works to ensure that English Learners are supported in the transition to college- and career-ready standards by including English Learner educators and Title III coordinators on its Stewardship Team, which guided Oregon's transition work. In addition, ODE conducted outreach on the new standards to general district and school staff, as well as district and school staff that specifically support English Learners, through joint presentations and by developing parent toolkits on college- and career-ready standards that are available in both English and Spanish.

Rhode Island:

  • The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) developed a comprehensive set of activities and resources to transition its schools and school districts to college- and career-ready standards (CCRS). Those activities included working with districts to develop curriculum aligned to Rhode Island's CCRS; developing and distributing handouts and resource lists to various stakeholder groups; and seeking external funding to support educators with knowledge of CCRS who then shared that knowledge with other educators. RIDE conducted workshops on CCRS for more than 5,700 educators, including those who work with English learners and students with disabilities; created modules on key areas of CCRS that are available online; and disseminated information and solicited feedback on Rhode Island's CCRS roll-out using social media and the Education Commissioner's weekly field memos.
  • RIDE has leveraged its data dashboard system in multiple ways. For example, it uses these dashboards on InfoWorks!, the Education Department's data reporting site, to provide information to the public on various accountability measures. RIDE also has schools conduct self-evaluations using data dashboards. The information obtained from the dashboards is used during quarterly visits to focus and priority schools to track their progress and inform decision-making regarding next steps.


  • The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) is moving towards the design of technical assistance that is tailored to fit differentiated needs at the classroom teacher level to improve student achievement.
  • USOE conducts onsite monitoring of priority schools at least twice a year, which is more than its regular Title I monitoring cycle.
  • USOE coordinates with the state higher education system and other institutions to link student performance data across the K-16 continuum for research purposes.

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.

Forty-one states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently have ESEA flexibility, 35 of which expire this summer. Those 35 states have all submitted extension requests. Twenty-nine states—Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin—and the District of Columbia have been granted extensions since July 3.