Published Online: August 9, 2011
Published in Print: August 10, 2011, as More States Asking for NCLB Waivers

Policy Brief

More States Asking for NCLB Waivers

As Congress continues to drag its feet in rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act, a growing number of states are getting in line for Education Department relief from provisions of the current law.

Michigan and Tennessee are the latest to formally seek waivers from the NCLB’s 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and reading. Other states are waiting for details about U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s promised plan to create a formal waiver process from many of the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which NCLB is the latest version.

As that deadline for 100 percent proficiency approaches, more schools are failing to make adequate yearly progress, the main NCLB yardstick. Schools that don’t make AYP face an escalating set of sanctions, and states and districts are struggling to deal with that growing number.

While states such as Michigan and Tennessee are asking for permission to ignore parts of the law, other states, including Idaho, are just telling the department they plan to disobey it, with or without approval.


Tom Luna, Idaho’s education chief, told the department in June that he had no intention of complying with the part of the law that requires states to gradually increase proficiency targets in math and reading. In a letter to Mr. Duncan, he said that with ESEA renewal stalled, he would take matters into his own hands.

In a July 27 letterRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader to Mr. Luna, the Education Department approved a change to Idaho’s accountability plan, letting the state keep its proficiency targets level for a third year in a row. But the department made clear that Idaho must stay on the path toward 100 percent proficiency in math and reading.

The department isn’t always so easily swayed.

In April, Montana became the first state to inform federal officials that it would not be raising its proficiency targets, which would be for a fourth consecutive year. Mr. Duncan would not grant a waiver and gave state officials until Aug. 15 to come up with a plan to comply with the law or face consequences.

South Dakota, which has also told the department it plans to freeze proficiency targets for a third straight year, had not received an official response from federal officials as of last week.

Vol. 30, Issue 37, Page 20

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