U.S. Department of Education Approves ESEA Flexibility Renewal for Maine and Michigan

Archived Information

U.S. Department of Education Approves ESEA Flexibility Renewal for Maine and Michigan

August 13, 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 Maine and Michigan have each received continued flexibility from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

These states are 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 three years of flexibility for Maine and Michigan. Each of these states is making progress when it comes to college- and career-ready standards and assessments, rigorous differentiated systems of recognition, accountability and support, and teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. They’re taking important steps toward ensuring that every child has the opportunity they deserve.

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.


  • Under ESEA flexibility, the Maine Department of Education has expanded outreach pportunities to ensure that all Maine school districts and schools have access to capacity-building activities. As a result, more school districts are participating in coaching and mentoring, and principal leadership development through its Transformational Leaders Network, which provides support for developing key skills and strategies to engage staff in the school improvement process and face-to-face coaching and mentoring by school improvement coaches, and the Cross Discipline Literacy Network, which provides professional development and support for literacy in various content areas.
  • To support the development and implementation of local educator evaluation systems, the Maine Department of Education is offering a wide range of supports for school districts and schools, including models for educator evaluation systems, workshops to support local implementation and trainings on various aspects of educator evaluation systems.



  • Using a variety of data tools and program supports, the state is helping priority and focus schools make data-driven decisions regarding how to best reach and intervene with students who are falling behind.
  • School improvement facilitators assist teacher teams in priority schools with a state-developed instructional learning cycle that supports teachers in the use of common assessments, helping them identify which students are on track, which students are ahead and which students need additional support.


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 the states being announced today, the Department has renewed flexibility for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, 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; /li>
  • 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.