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Center on Education Policy

On February 9, 2012, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan granted 10 states waivers of key accountability requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. One year later, applications for this ESEA flexibility, also known as NCLB waivers, had been approved for an additional 24 states and the District of Columbia. States that receive waivers have the flexibility to depart from some of NCLB's most significant requirements, such as judging school performance against a goal of 100% of students reaching reading and math "proficiency" by 2014 and implementing specific interventions in schools that fall short of performance targets. States with approved waiver applications must meet several new requirements, described below, that relate to standards and assessments, accountability systems, teacher and principal evaluation, and reductions in administrative burden. This report by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) at The George Washington University describes states' early experiences in applying for waivers and their plans for implementing the new systems outlined in their applications. The findings are based on a CEP survey administered in the fall of 2012. A total of 38 states responded to the survey, including 32 states with approved waiver applications (counting D.C. as a state) and 6 states whose applications were still pending as of the fall of 2012 when the survey was administered. Several key findings emerged from the survey results: (1) States believe that the waivers address several of the problems they see with the NCLB accountability requirements; (2) States are optimistic that the waivers will improve student learning; (3) Waivers have shaped state policies and accelerated some reforms; (4) Changes in teacher and principal evaluation systems are well underway, despite resistance in some states from teachers; (5) States have mixed views about whether implementing the various aspects of the waivers will cost more than implementing similar NCLB provisions; and (6) Many state officials are concerned about what will happen to the programs and policies in their waiver plans if ESEA is reauthorized. Study methods are appended. [This report was written with the assistance of Nancy Kober.]

Descriptors: Educational Legislation, Federal Legislation, Accountability, Federal State Relationship, Compliance (Legal), Eligibility, Federal Programs, State Policy, Educational Policy, Program Implementation, Academic Achievement, Educational Change, Administrator Evaluation, Teacher Evaluation, Costs, Resource Allocation, School Choice, Tutoring, Educational Improvement, Partnerships in Education, Resistance to Change

Center on Education Policy. 2140 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Room 103, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-822-8065; Fax: 202-994-8859; e-mail: cep-dc[at]; Web site:

Autor: McMurrer, Jennifer; Yoshioka, Nanami


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