Top 5 Questions About NCLB Flexibility

“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.



  1. My question is probably a restating of the question concerning Supplemental Educational Services (SES).

    Will States be able to exempt out of being required to offer SES?

  2. It is time that we focus on teaching and learning. There has been far too much time spent on testing and analyzing data. It has caused a paralysis in educating our children. It is unfair for our poorest children and our second language learners to be tested in this format. I am fearful that our very best educators will leave because our emphasis has been punitive rather than celebrating progress and growth. Secretary Duncan, you need to invest in teacher training and supporting our educators rather than allowing them to be demeaned by folks who only have the experience of going to school and not being a highly trained educator. I am disappointed in programs such as Teach For America that does not have a high retention or success rate. I want an educator who has been well educated in a high quality program not a run through in a few weeks. This is demeaning to an educator’s profession. It is time that this administration supports and trains educators in high quality programs that have been researched based. It is time to improve public ed not run it in the ground with folks with weak credentials at best. I would not go to a doctor who wasn’t board certified but we are willing to put people in positions without the proper training. I do not want this for my children.

  3. Will the new ESEA reform improve the education for the highest performing children? I am a former employee at the US Dept. of Ed – in the era of ESEA renamed to NCLB. NCLB only takes into account the lowest children. The highest students in elementary school are constantly offered “group” projects and “independent” work – with no actual challenges. Research shows that the highest children will have the greatest impact on society – technologically, scientifically, politically, medically, artistically, job creation, etc. America is so proud of its anti-discrimination laws, yet, we do not seem to have any problem discriminating against “smart” students. Most school systems do not even acknowledge GATE children. How will the new reforms address this issue?

  4. I’m a classroom teacher who has been laid off due to the performance of my students. 90% are already underperforming. Now due to NCLB requirements, no other school can hire me because of the stigma of “Non-Re-Elected.” How do I get held responsible for their performance? I’m only 1/3 of the puzzle. Now I can’t work anywhere- Lets call it “every new teacher left behind.”

    • I am a mom of a senior, in high school. I seen a drastic difference in the classroom sizes (students/teacher ratio), since her freshman year, and watching teachers being fired for lack of accountability. I think, within the NCLB act, there should be stipulations as far as classroom sizes as well. I am in the process of writing a paper, for my college class, about a personal argumentative essay, investigating the teacher accountability, especially when school departments keep cutting from the school budgets, and increasing teacher/student ratios. How can teachers meet the “high standards”, when they are being set up to fail already? That is an answer I am curious to find!
      My investigation is on the school district that my child is currently in. And as my research goes forward, it is developing more questions, for me.

  5. This “No child left behind” act is crazy. The only child left behind is mine because he is above grade level 🙁 . I am sure many of you feel the same but I think the school district needs to pay for classes for more advanced kids. We are the ones being left out because we are doing our jobs as parents and teaching our kids. WHat is wrong with our country??
    Very disappointing…

  6. My situation is a little different, more on a local level. But Florida law says you have to be 5 by Sept. 1 to go to Kindergarten. My son turns 5 in Nov. He already did pre-k, and is advanced in math and science and spot on in all other areas. I feel he is being left behind because of the date he was born. Do I have any recourse against this law? What are my options on a federal level? Thanks for any advice.

  7. My 8yr old son attends Pave charter school in bklyn,NY he passed the state exams this year and they still are retaining him because he isn’t meeting their so called standards of all 3rd graders in that school have to be on a step 12 he’s on step 8 but again he passed the reading and math state test. What can I do to reverse this and get him to the 4th grade?

  8. i just wanted to put out that the America’s education system is not ready for the 21st century. Standardization has killed creativity and made a generation scared of failure. failure which the schools have created.
    Creating a solution is not the same as finding a solution. Problem-solving cannot be taught through textbooks and standardized testing.
    join the fight to bring everyone one step closer to the end of negative stigmas associated with failure and mistakes.

  9. Please let the students continue to receive the free SES tutoring. These students need this program so much, it is very beneficial to all.

  10. No child left behind nonsense did not hit me until today. I transferred my daughter to a high school outside of the boundaries for my address- due to a court ordered transfer. The regular bus route for the school is 5 miles away which means I have to leave my middle and elementary child alone at home to get her there (no public transportation). Yet, a bus does come in my neighborhood for kids in special programs. Becuase she is not in a program she cant get on the bus close to home. No child left behind my tail. My daughter is being left behind. A true reform of policy and meaning of the law needs to kick in quick, as I am sure my daughter is not the only one.

    • I agree with you Carly. My children were granted a transfer to a different school with higher test scores due to the NCLB act, and was informed that transportation would be provided. Since we live less than a mile from their “home school” the district states that my children could walk to school. My children will have to cross a major intersection to get to their home school, so that they could catch the bus. Once I was informed that my children would be picked up and dropped off at their home school I sent an email to the school board president, who then forwarded my frustration to the Superintendant. I received a reply from both. This is a direct line from the last reply from the Superintendant, It was confirmed that your home is within walking distance to Southport and our transportation provision for the “School Choice” program is such that students are transported to and from their “home school” to the school of choice. You had noted that there is transportation provided for kindergarten students and this is due to a different distance we measure, based on student’s grade level. Our transportation services are provided to kindergarten students who live beyond 3/4 of a mile from school. For students in grades 1 through 8, the distance is 1 3/4 miles and 2 1/4 miles is the measure for high school students.

      I don’t know about you but I don’t feel comfortable letting my children walk to school even though one is in 7th and one is in 5th. I thought the that the No Child Left Behind Act had to do with safety as well as academics. My battle isn’t over because I have just begun.

      • File a complaint with the Title 1 enforcer. I am filing mine today. The No Child Left Behind Act states “as well as pay for transportation to the other schools”. Title 1 enforcer said that they must provide transportation. Good luck!

  11. As an administrator, I am not opposed to accountability. Our district has the highest of standards and we are seeing real improvements across all sub groups. But the requirements of this law are punitive, not supportive. Our school district, which must provide bilingual education because of the high number of ESL (English Second Language) students in each grade level, showed significant improvement in 20 of the 22 markers this year and fell below the AYP standard by one student in one subgroup. As a result, the district did not meet AYP. This all or nothing provision does not reflect the truth about improving schools. Our school district is making great gains, but according to the feds it appears to be a failure. In two years, when the 100% standard is in place, only schools with the whitest and richest students will meet AYP, and not many of them will even be able to do it. It must be reformed.

  12. What about the goal of 100% of students across the whole nation be at grade level in Reading and Math by 2013/2014. This will never be achieved, NEVER. And yet nothing has been done to adjust this. How can you bureaucrats expect this in two years when a majority of the schools across the country this year failed to make AYP? It’s not the schools or teachers or students that are failing. The vast majority of schools/teachers/students are doing fine. It’s these ridiculous accountability measures that are shoved down our throats year in and year out that poison our education system. You bureaucrats keep on saying we need to do better compared to other countries on the one test given every four year internationally. Yet how do you know if these test are valid? Prove to the American public these tests are valid. This once every four years test is THE driving force behind the degradation of our schools. Solution — get rid of this assinine 100% of students success rate policy and drop out of this assinine international test that you bureaucrats so dearly love. We do not need to compare our education system with others around the world — learn from them, maybe — but not compare. Learning is a personal endeavor — NOT A COMPETITION!

  13. If my child sits in a classroom with 70 percent illegal aliens and he’s testing in the 99 percentile of the state, why then is the classroom average testing at below 40% and can we deport Mexico’s unemployed tax-takers back and get my kid’s class at least above the 50% testing level before I put him in private school?

    Also, why must I pay twice for education if I put him in private: my collective taxes pay the public system whether he goes or not and I believe I should be credited if he goes to private.

    • I am childless and support public education and feel that we all need to pay in order to create an educated America. There seems to be a shortage of an educated society today!

  14. If my child is receiving free SES tutoring, will they loss the free tutoring if the state is granted a waiver?

    • Andrew –

      Thank you for your question. The Department is still working on the final details of the flexibility package and more information should be available in the coming month.

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

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