Virginia, 5 other states awarded extension to ‘No Child’ waiver

The U.S. Education Department announced Thursday that Virginia and five other states have been awarded another year of flexibility from some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Congress has offered no legislative fix to the 12-year old education law, which includes the goal that all students should be proficient in reading and math by 2014. States falling short could risk sanctions or lose federal aid.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced in August 2011 that the administration would unilaterally grant states waivers from some of the more stringent parts of the law. The department has awarded waivers in exchange for plans that meet certain goals for reform, including implementing college-ready and career-ready standards and accountability systems that target the lowest-performing schools.

“ESEA flexibility has allowed states to move beyond the one-size-fits-all mandates of NCLB, to be more innovative, and to engage in continued improvement in ways that benefit educators and students,” Duncan said in a statement Thursday.

Virginia first applied for relief from parts of the law in 2012. A letter confirming the extension of the state’s original waiver said that flexibility “has been effective in enabling Virginia to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement.” It also said that if Virginia “remains on track to implement teacher and principal evaluation and support systems” it will be eligible for consideration of a longer renewal next spring.

The Education Department is reviewing extension requests on a rolling basis. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have received flexibility. The waivers in 35 states expire this summer. Of those, 29 states have submitted extension requests.

Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada and South Dakota are the other five states awarded one-year extensions on Thursday.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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