NCLB Waivers: The Twists, Turns, and Terms to Know

Federal waivers from key mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act have undergone numerous changes. This interactive timeline tracks those twists and turns and includes a glossary of key terms.

NCLB Waivers: The Twists, Turns, and Terms to Know

The Obama administration first offered No Child Left Behind Act waivers to states back in 2011. Since then, there have been numerous changes and variations to the coveted flexibility. This interactive timeline tracks those twists and turns. Scroll for a glossary of key waiver terms.

Related: For a state-by-state breakdown of waiver status, view this interactive map.

Glossary of Waiver Terms

Waiver: Comprehensive flexibility that the U.S. Department of Education has granted to more than 40 states and the District of Columbia from key requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) in exchange for embracing certain Obama administration education-redesign priorities on teachers, testing, standards, and school turnarounds.

Waiver-Waivers: Special one-year waivers granted to states, including those that are not participating in ESEA flexibility. For example, the department has offered states the chance to freeze their annual measurable objectives, or AMOs, and push back the timeline for using teacher evaluation to inform personnel decisions.

Double-Testing Waiver: A one-year waiver available to any state doing a trial run of assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. States got permission to assess some or all students using only the new common-core exams, not their regular state assessments, so students didn’t have to sit through two exams.

Waiver Extensions: The process to allow states to keep their waivers—and keep from having to go back to the NCLB accountability system—for one additional year. To get the extension, states must address concerns in monitoring reports done by the Education Department. Importantly, some states can get their waivers extended even if their teacher-evaluation systems aren’t on track.

Waiver Renewal: A much more rigorous process that could allow states to keep their waivers for a longer period. The Education Department is expected to fill in the details later this year.

Priority School: A school identified as one of the lowest performers in the state and subject to dramatic interventions, including potential leadership changes. States must identify at least 5 percent of their schools as “priority schools.”

Focus School: A school with persistent achievement gaps or poor performance among “subgroup” students, such as English-language learners or students in special education. States must identify 10 percent of their schools as “focus” schools.

Reporting: Alyson Klein | Design: Laura Baker & Gina Tomko | Sources: Education Week, New American Foundation