“We’re still hopeful that Congress can continue its work this fall. In the meantime, states and districts have an opportunity to move forward,” said Secretary Duncan in a statement earlier today announcing the Obama Administration’s plan to provide a process for states to receive flexibility under the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. While more details on the flexibility plan are forthcoming, here is a list of the top five questions about the announcement we are hearing.
1. Why now?
Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—is four years late. The Obama administration introduced its Blueprint for Reform sixteen months ago, and President Obama called on Congress in March to finish a bill before the start of the new school year. States, districts, schools and most importantly students cannot wait another school year for this broken law to be fixed.
2. Does the administration’s plan replace Congressional reauthorization?
No, the plan to provide flexibility does not replace a comprehensive reauthorization from Congress. The administration’s plan will provide flexibility to districts and schools to improve student achievement by raising standards while Congress continues to work on reauthorization.
3. Does this regulatory flexibility package offer blanket flexibility to states and districts?
While all states will be eligible for this regulatory flexibility, only states that agree to meet a high bar will receive the flexibility they need to improve education on the ground for students. States granted flexibility would be expected to maintain rigorous accountability, including for subgroups of students.
4. Is there legal authority for the Department to allow this flexibility?
Section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act) allows the Secretary to waive certain statutory or regulatory requirements of the ESEA.
5. When will this flexibility have an impact on the ground?
We will continue to gather ideas from states in the coming month and plan to roll out details of the package in mid-September. We anticipate that this flexibility will begin to have an impact at the end of the 2011-2012 school year and have the most significant impact beginning in the 2012-2013 school year.