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Duncan to Grant Waivers from NCLB Requirements

Due to Congress’ failure to act on reauthorization, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it plans to offer states relief from some of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act in exchange for states’ support of the Administration’s education reform policies.

Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said during the announcement, “America’s future competitiveness is being decided today, in classrooms across the nation. With no clear path to a bipartisan bill in Congress, the President has directed us to move forward with an administrative process to provide flexibility within the law for states and districts that are willing to embrace reform.”

States will be given the opportunity to apply for a waiver from certain requirements in the law. These applications will be peer reviewed by individuals outside of the Department, but the final decision will belong to Secretary Duncan. The waivers would take effect during the 2011-2012 school year. Further details about the waivers will be released in September. However, rumors are swirling that states would be given waivers from NCLB’s 2014 proficiency deadline and more funding flexibility, in exchange for adopting college- or career-ready standards, creating differentiated accountability systems, and adopting teacher evaluation systems.

While the Secretary has clear legal authority to grant waivers from the law, it is not clear that he has the authority to make them conditional on support for the Administration’s reform policies.

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