SALT LAKE CITY – Utah will receive another one-year flexibility waiver from many of the more onerous provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.
The Utah State Board of Education voted in March to request a one-year extension of its waiver, risking denial by pushing for more independence by again amending the application to fit Utah’s needs. The amendments allow for both flexibility in ESEA provisions and many waiver requirements.
Representatives from the State Board and State Office of Education have engaged in several conversations with the U.S. Department of Education since March in an effort to reach an agreement.
The approved application includes language asserting the state’s “absolute and exclusive right to modify” Utah Core Standards, SAGE assessments, the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System, and its own teacher and principal evaluation systems without approval from or sanction by the U.S. Department of Education.
This new extension allows Utah to continue to implement ESEA flexibility through the 2015-16 school year. At the same time, the waiver acknowledges Utah’s sovereignty over the state’s public school system.
“The State Board of Education is committed to maintaining state control over standards, assessment and accountability of our schools. We are pleased with the decision from the Department of Education to waive the obsolete requirements of No Child Left Behind while preserving our autonomy and flexibility to improve the capacity, quality and equity of public education in Utah,” said State Board Chairman David L. Crandall.
Although multi-year extensions were offered for the first time this year, the State Board sought a one-year extension in order to closely monitor developments in federal education policy and allow maximum flexibility in Utah’s ability to react to any changes.
Utah first applied for an ESEA flexibility waiver in 2012. The waiver provides states relief from some provisions in exchange for reforms meant to improve student achievement.
The federal act, also known as No Child Left Behind, has been due for reauthorization by Congress since 2007. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would grant waivers from many ESEA provisions to states that meet certain requirements.
Congress has recently made strides toward reauthorization, with respective bills being passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives in the past month. In the event of reauthorization, each state would need to transition into compliance with the new law.