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FEDERAL UPDATE: U.S. Department of Education Receives Requests for NCLB Waivers from Seven More States; Receives Intent from Nearly 900 Applicants Under Race to the Top-District Competition

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“I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level, and the enthusiastic response to the Race to the Top-District competition highlights the excitement that districts have to engage in locally designed reforms that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness.”

On September 10, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it received requests for additional flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, from seven additional states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia) in exchange for state-led reform in the areas of college- and career-ready standards, accountability and improvement, and teacher evaluation. In total, forty-four states have either requested waivers or been approved for waivers from certain NCLB requirements, including the provision requiring that 100 percent of students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

“This is truly a nationwide movement, and the message from coast to coast is clear—America can’t wait any longer for real education reform,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “My hope is that Congress will come together to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but we know states need flexibility now.”

States that have been approved for waivers are shown in green on the map to the right, while states with outstanding requests for waivers are shown in yellow. States that have not requested a waiver or withdrew its waiver (Vermont) are shown in white.

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Additional information on the waiver process is available at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility.

An Update on the Race to the Top-District Competition

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has received notice from 893 potential applicants that they intend to apply for funding under the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition. RTT-D will provide nearly $400 million in federal funding for school districts to support reforms that will personalize learning, close achievement gaps, and prepare students for college and a career.

“I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level, and the enthusiastic response to the Race to the Top-District competition highlights the excitement that districts have to engage in locally designed reforms that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness,” said Duncan. “We hope to build on this nationwide momentum by funding districts that have innovative plans to transform the learning environment, a clear vision for reform and a track record of success.”

According to its announcement, ED is accepting proposals from applicants across a variety of districts, including rural and nonrural districts; those that already received a Race to the Top state grant; as well as districts not participating. ED plans to award fifteen to twenty-five grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. Districts or groups of districts serving at least 2,500 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch were eligible to apply. Applications are due October 30, with awards being announced no later than December 31, 2012.

More information on the programs, including a list of potential applicants, can be found at http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district.

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