The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Wisconsin have each received continued flexibility from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as they implement 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.”
Arizona’s lowest-performing schools implement research-based strategies to improve student performance. These schools implement strategies, such as implementing data-driven professional learning communities and increasing family engagement, that are informed by a needs assessment conducted with the participation of the general school community. Each school also sets performance targets for the school and specific subgroups, particularly those students in the bottom quartile.
Arizona is tailoring supports and interventions to fit the context of the school and community. For example, in online schools the state is requiring interventions that are consistent with those of traditional schools, but allowing some modifications to address the unique learning environments of these schools.
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.
Flexibility plans help 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.