The list of states seeking waivers from the U.S. Department of Education under the No Child Left Behind Act continues to grow, as seven more want flexibility on some of the cornerstone provisions of the decade-old federal accountability law.
The addition of Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia to the list means 44 states, plus the District of Columbia, have now either secured a waiver or asked for one.
“This is truly a nationwide movement,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a Sept. 10 statement.
The six states that, so far, have not requested a waiver include two with large student populations: Pennsylvania and Texas. Montana, Nebraska, Vermont, and Wyoming are also on the list.
Last year, the Obama administration said that as it waited for Congress to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose latest version is the NCLB law, it would grant waivers on a voluntary basis to states that adopted certain ideas for improving education.
In exchange for flexibility on key parts of the law—including that 100 percent of students be proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year—states had to commit to, among other things, building their own differentiated accountability systems and crafting teacher and principal evaluations that factor in student performance.
It’s those strings that have drawn the ire of some states, including California and Texas.
Although California has sought a waiver, it has crafted its own application outside the federal Education Department’s process: The state wants flexibility without committing to most of the strings. The department hasn’t ruled on the request.
And now Texas has notified its school districts that it plans to submit an application for flexibility, also on its own terms.
“This allows us to define the waiver request without agreeing to the strings that were attached to the NCLB waiver,” Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said.
Since Texas has not submitted its request yet, a federal Education Department spokesman said he would have no comment on the state’s plans.
A version of this article appeared in the September 19, 2012 edition of Education Week as Line Still Growing for NCLB Waivers