States and Education Community Weigh In on First Round of NCLB Flexibility

President Obama and Secretary Duncan at the White House announcement

President Barack Obama, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, delivers remarks on education reform and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama announced yesterday that ten states have agreed to implement bold education reforms and will receive flexibility from No Child Left Behind.

These ten states will now have the flexibility needed to raise student achievement standards, improve school accountability, and increase teacher effectiveness. The ten states approved for flexibility are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Here’s what Governors, state education chiefs and education stakeholders are saying about the announcement:

Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond: “The waiver really supports our state system of continuous improvement and allows schools and districts to focus their energies on one accountability system designed to elevate student achievement.”

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal: “This waiver will give Georgia the flexibility we need to pursue our goals of student achievement. We appreciate the cooperation of federal officials as we seek to prepare young Georgians for higher education and the jobs of tomorrow.”

Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett: “I applaud the U.S. Department of Education for providing states the flexibility they need to drive academic achievement for all students. Indiana’s commitment to comprehensive reform has enabled us to be among the first states receiving a waiver.”

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear: “This federal flexibility opens a new chapter in the Commonwealth’s work to ensure a well-educated citizenry.”

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius: “Now, with the support of the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Duncan, we will be able to better address those inequities and create an educational system that better serves our every Minnesota student.”

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman: “It’s just not helpful or realistic to label schools and districts as failing, especially when they are making significant academic gains. This waiver is all about approving achievement for all students while closing persistent achievement gaps.”

National Education Association: “We’re encouraged by President Obama’s and Secretary Duncan’s efforts to provide NCLB waivers for relief,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  “These states have committed to working with teachers, parents, and other community stakeholders to implement changes designed to better support students. Our members look forward to being part of a true partnership with school and community leaders to think creatively about how to help all students thrive with this new flexibility.”

National Association of State Boards of Education: “States and state boards of education are at the fore of innovation in education as they continue to develop and improve policies to help every student become college- or career-ready. It is heartening to see the Administration recognizes this hard work by starting to relieve states of the burden imposed on them by a law that set out worthy but perhaps unrealistic goals.”

The Education Trust: “In this new approach, the federal government takes responsibility for ensuring that states set meaningful goals for all groups of students — particularly low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and English language learners, all of whom are too often shortchanged by state and local education policy.”


  1. As an Indiana resident, I am thrilled that Indiana was in the first round of NCLB Flexibility waivers. Education innovation should be a top priority for all Americans because education is crucial to decreasing poverty, creating a competitive workforce, and ensuring a brighter future for the next generation of American leaders. In a time where American schools need to complete on a global level, education legislation should not be limiting curriculum. “Teaching to the test” is no way to provide our children with a high quality, well-rounded education. The current system where schools are punished for not achieving adequate annual yearly progress creates incentives for schools to focus only on increasing reading and math scores.
    Increasing student achievement and preparing our children for a diverse and competitive workforce will not occur by limiting the definition of “achievement” to obtaining high scores in reading and math. Instead, NCLB should be preparing students to pursue careers in all fields: science, history, art, technology, health, etc.

    I applaud President Obama’s effort to provide Flexibility waivers to allow states to reevaluate assessment criteria and redetermine the most effective way of increasing student achievement. It is my hope that Indiana, along with the other states who have received waivers, will take this opportunity expand achievement measures and assessment standards to include these other areas of education. At the very least, states need to find new ways of increasing test scores in reading and math without compromising other school subjects. Providing our children with a well-rounded education is one of the best ways we can prepare them for a successful future.

    • Theresa – thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

  2. My state will soon request a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, and I oppose the waiver. I like the No Child Left Behind Act. Thanks to this Act, schools can no longer rest on the laurels of high average test scores. Instead, they are required to report data by groups such as low socioeconomic status. My school system now shows that there are some kids it poorly educates. The data also shows that a couple of elementary schools are struggling. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, parents who are assigned to those schools can have their children transported to better performing schools at the expense of the school district. This is great and provides those parents with the same advantage more well off parents have–the ability to get their children into better schools. Under no circumstances should any waiver granted remove the requirement that schools must transport some students to better performing schools at no cost to the students’ parents.

    The reforms promoted in the online presentation on my state department of education’s website show that schools will differentiate more and prepare students to be “college ready.” This is what schools are supposed to be doing now. This could and should happen without a waiver (although I’m completely unconvinced all students should attend college).

    The primary problem with the federal No Child Left Behind law is one that has existed from the beginning. States were allowed to come up with their own plans about how to implement No Child Left Behind and at least some of the state plans were not good.

    The best reform that could happen to No Child Left Behind is to take away from states the ability to use their own testing. Instead use a national test that determines if students know what they should know at each age. I’d have no problem with teachers teaching to a test if the test actually measured what students should know. Technology provides us with the ability to make testing progressively more difficult for students who answer questions correctly initially, and this would help drive differentiation among students. A global economy requires that all students in the U.S. be properly educated. Our students deserve a real solution, not political pandering!

  3. The NCLB needs to be abolished. Stop blaming teachers and students because of the federal government mistakes. NCLB should have implemented a National Curriculum, National Standards and a National Test along with Project and Research Based Learning. These useless tests should not have been nor should not be used to punish teachers and students. Standarized test and threatening teachers is not the answer to America’s problem. If you want to know the truth removing Prayer from Public Schools along with the NCLB is what has caused the problem in American Schools. Bring Prayer back and abolish the NCLB.

    • i am a student that has been given many opportunities by this act being implemented. i went to an inner-city school that did not meet their required scores on our standardized test. the school i was at had high racial tension and low discipline. i was given the opportunity to transfer to a school right outside of my former school zone, along with free transportation. i have learned so much in the one semester that i have been at my current school that i would never had had the chance to learn if not for this act. and how can u compare this to the removal of prayer from public schools? i’m a devout christian, but i have friends that are not. these aren’t bad kids, they just don’t share my religious beliefs. how does that affect our ability to learn? and how does giving students a better place to learn hinder other student’s abilities to learn?

  4. Great decision by the President to release the restrictions from NCLB for certain states. The school districts strictly enforcing the NCLB loss good teachers implementing the “highly qualified” clause. The ability to be a good teacher does not depend on your educational level, instead it depends on your dedication to educating students. The best teachers encourage students to do their best and teach from the heart, soul, and mind not just from a textbook or to pass a test. Good teachers produce good test results and great teachers produce professionals for the workforce. Let us put Career and Technical Education (CTE) as graduation and remediation options for struggling students. CTE is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM can be implemented in a Food Prep class. STEM is CTE! Look at the in-school and summer job programs during the 1970’s in Georgia. Participates in those program make up an enormous portion of today’s workforce.

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