U.S. Department of Education Approves ESEA Flexibility Renewal for Louisiana

Archived Information

U.S. Department of Education Approves ESEA Flexibility Renewal for Louisiana

November 10, 2015

Building on the significant progress seen in America’s schools over the last six years, the U.S. Department of Education announced today that Louisiana has received continued flexibility from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The state is implementing comprehensive, state-designed plans to ensure student success and a continued commitment to college- and career-readiness for every student.

“The last six years have seen dramatic progress for America’s school children. The high school dropout rate is down, and graduation rates are higher than they have ever been,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “As a result of our partnerships with state and district leaders to couple flexibility with reform, we are seeing remarkable strides and bold actions to improve student outcomes. States, districts, principals and teachers are showing incredible creativity in using different means to achieve the same goal—getting every student in America college- and career-ready.”

Since this flexibility was first granted in 2012, the Department has partnered with state and district leaders to provide relief from some provisions of NCLB in exchange for taking bold actions to improve student outcomes and ensure equity for all students. Under NCLB, schools were given many ways to fail but very few opportunities to succeed. The law forced schools and districts into one-size-fits-all solutions, regardless of the individual needs and circumstances in those communities.

Under flexibility plans, states continue to focus resources on comprehensive, rigorous interventions in their lowest-performing schools and supports to help the neediest students meet high expectations alongside their peers. States also have focused on improving teacher and principal effectiveness across the country with evaluation and support systems that are used for continual improvement of instruction and provide clear, timely and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs and guides professional development. These systems also can be used to recognize and reward highly effective educators, as well as to inform important conversations about ensuring equitable access to effective educators for students from low-income families and students of color.

Today’s announcement provides an additional year of flexibility for Louisiana, which is making progress when it comes to college- and career-ready standards and assessments, and rigorous differentiated systems of recognition, accountability and support for schools. The state is taking important steps toward ensuring that every child has the opportunity he or she deserves. However, its waiver is being moved to high-risk status because its timelines to administer English language proficiency assessments and alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities do not meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility. While the State has a high-quality plan to administer aligned general assessments in the 2015-2016 school year, the state plans to administer English language proficiency and alternate assessments that are not fully aligned with the state’s academic content standards for the 2015-16 school year. The state has not yet submitted the federally-defined high-quality plan to administer these aligned assessments for all students in both the 2016-17 and subsequent school years, but will do so in spring 2016.

States need a new round of waivers to provide ongoing flexibility from top-down, prescriptive provisions of the law so that they can continue implementing innovative changes that ensure all children receive a high-quality education. These renewals provide states with stability as they continue to work on preparing all students for success in college, careers and life.

Louisiana has leveraged its federal school improvement funds to develop a competitive grant program to provide funding for districts to turn around Focus schools that are identified because of significant achievement gaps. This newly approved flexibility allows the Louisiana Department of Education to broaden the impact of Title I school improvement funds and enables the state to implement rigorous interventions in these schools.

In all, 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have received flexibility from the burdens of the existing law in order to support improved achievement in schools. All states up for renewal have submitted a request to extend their flexibility, and Nebraska requested a waiver from the law for the first time ever.

In addition to Louisiana’s announcement today, the Department has renewed flexibility for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. More renewal decisions will follow in the coming weeks.

In the event that Congress reauthorizes ESEA, the Department will work with states to help them transition to the new law. Duncan has called on Congress to create a bipartisan ESEA law that:

  • Gives teachers and principals the resources they need, and invests in districts and states to create innovative new solutions to increase student outcomes;
  • Makes real investments in high-poverty schools and districts, and in expanding high-quality preschool;
  • Holds high expectations for all students, and requires that where groups of students or schools are not making progress, there will be an action plan for change;
  • Identifies schools that are consistently not making progress and dedicates extra resources and support, including in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools that are struggling year after year;
  • Addresses funding inequities for schools that serve high proportions of low-income students.

The renewal letters are available on the ESEA flexibility page.