Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Requests for Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi North Carolina and Wisconsin

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Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Requests for Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi North Carolina and Wisconsin

August 14, 2014

The Obama administration announced today that five states—Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi North Carolina and Wisconsin—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, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi North Carolina and Wisconsin have implemented education reforms that go far beyond the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s rigid, top-down requirements.  Examples of that work include:


  • The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) streamlined the plans required of its lowest performing schools and the schools with the largest gaps to help reduce burden and facilitate a more targeted, strategic approach to addressing students’ needs. Schools submit these School Improvement Plans (SIPs), electronically and receive ongoing and real time feedback prior to approval.

  • FLDOE's Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services and the Bureau of School Improvement proactively collaborate to support schools and districts in meeting the needs of students with disabilities and students who consistently miss performance targets.

  • FLDOE has a comprehensive system for collecting and reporting a wide variety of performance indicators on students, schools and districts. This process ensures transparency and provides information to its five Regional Executive Directors, schools and districts to help guide their efforts to improve the performance of all students and student subgroups.


  • The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has developed and implemented a comprehensive management structure for Unbridled Learning—the KDE's plan for ensuring that every child reaches his/her learning potential and graduates from high school college- and career-ready.

  • The KDE has a delivery plan for each of the Unbridled Learning goals: college- and career-readiness, proficiency, closing the achievement gap and next-generation professionals. The status of work and progress toward the goals is monitored and reported at regular staff and leadership meetings. As a result of this structure, the KDE has aligned and coordinated its school improvement efforts from the school level through the Commissioner level.

  • The KDE has put in place and integrated multiple resources that support student achievement, accountability, instructional improvement and school and district planning to help guide their school improvement efforts.


  • The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) collects immediate feedback on the trainings it conducts regarding the implementation of college- and career-ready standards. This feedback is used to adjust both the content and method of delivery of state level training and professional development.

  • The MDE has introduced district level interviews with the lowest performing schools under the state accountability system to ensure that these districts target Title I funds toward improving school performance.

  • The MDE has aligned goal setting within its teacher and principal evaluation systems, so that all educators within a school are striving for the same or complimentary goals.

North Carolina:

  • The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) has launched a detailed communications initiative to explain the transition to college- and career-ready standards and assessments in terms of changes in test results, as well as anticipated benefits for students. A variety of multi-media resources are provided at www.ncpublicschools.org/ready.

  • The NCDPI is moving towards the goal of creating individualized plans for each English language learner through intense analysis and discussions with various educational stakeholders.

  • The NCDPI uses an integrated approach to monitoring of its priority and focus schools, where various programs are involved.


  • The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) created tools for school-level and district-level leaders that provide information on implementation of several initiatives and how they can be coordinated to be most effective. The initiatives include the implementation of college and career ready standards and the aligned instruction and assessments; continuous data use for school improvement, and the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System system.

  • DPI provides funding to a selection of the highest-performing Reward Schools to share promising practices with other schools across the state. Additionally, DPI has a competitive Teacher Fellowship grant program that provides teachers in reward schools with resources to fund personalized professional development /and share their expertise and experiences.

  • DPI and Wisconsin educators are creating and implementing teacher and principal evaluation systems intended to identify specific strengths and areas of growth, to improve their practice and to improve student outcomes.

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. Thirteen other states: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia have been granted extensions since July 3.