The Education Dept. grants Ohio and Michigan 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).
The extension will allow schools in Ohio and Michigan to escape some of the most onerous provisions of the NCLB law, which most states have found to be unworkable. Both states won the extension because they have demonstrated progress in improving the delivery of K-12 classroom instruction, according to Education Secy. Arne Duncan.
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.
- Through Michigan’s statewide system of support (MI Excel), priority and focus schools are provided with an array of tools, including district or school improvement facilitators. These facilitators are trained to engage in dialogues that help schools and districts to focus on targeted interventions.
- In order to promote a cohesive approach to whole school turnaround in School Improvement Grant (SIG) and non-SIG priority schools, the state launched an online best practices website. With this approach, the state 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 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 the extension, Ohio and Michigan had to show 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. The extension is through the 2014-2015 school year.
The department is reviewing requests from states for one-year extensions on a rolling basis and anticipates approving additional extension requests over the next several weeks. Nearly all states — 43 of them — the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have won a ESEA waiver, 35 of which expire this summer. Of those, 32 submitted an extension request. Twenty states have been granted extensions since July 3: 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. The NCLB waivers are a work-around for Duncan and ED. Congress has dragged its feet in renewing ESEA, which has been due for reauthorization since 2007. States have embraced the waivers; lawmakers on Capitol Hill have not.
But, the waivers have been applauded by most of the education community because they break the congressional logjam and allow states to continue moving forward on the ambitious education reforms they began with their initial flexibility requests.
“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,” Duncan says. The extensions “allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed.”