ESEA Waiver

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                            Jack Jacobson, President

June 23nd, 2015                                                                                                                  (202) 741-0888


District of Columbia Receives Renewed Waiver from No Child Left Behind


Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Education announced its decision Tuesday to renew the District’s flexibility waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The waiver relieves the District from many of the punitive measures of NCLB in exchange for implementing a school accountability and support plan, among other policies. The District first qualified for waiver status in 2012.


This year’s waiver calls for an “accountability pause” on standardized tests, as D.C. schools move away from the DC CAS tests towards the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments. The intention is for teachers to focus on teaching the new standards instead of focusing on test results. This also echoes the oft-heard complaint that the testing focus of NCLB leaves too many schools “teaching to the test.”

“The single most-made comment at community meetings on the waiver was that there’s too much testing,” said Ward 3 Board member Ruth Wattenberg, who led the Board’s ESEA waiver renewal committee. “And as result, they are worried that the curriculum is narrowing and forcing out the less-tested subjects. The Board is calling for a study on the side effects of testing and accountability.”


Additionally, the waiver allows middle school students enrolled in advanced math courses to take standardized tests aligned to their course instead of tests aligned to their grade level. The application also put forth a more robust plan for supporting low-achieving schools.

The successful waiver application is the result of collaboration between the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) and the State Board of Education.

"The Board undertook a great deal of work to receive this renewal, collaborating with our colleagues at OSSE and conducting a great deal of community outreach and engagement," said Ward 2 Representative and Board President Jack Jacobson. "Our work has identified a number of opportunities to improve the District's accountability plan, and we look forward to continuing to work to enact common-sense policies that will improve student outcomes."


In order to assure the accountability pause, OSSE and the Board worked quickly throughout the spring to finish the application. This left a good deal of unfinished business, according to Wattenberg, and the two agencies are committed to filing a second set of amendments later this year. The Board recommends modifying how student achievement is measured, and giving parents and the public more access to useful information about student progress, learning conditions, and budget transparency.

“We’ve heard very strongly from parents about the need for school report cards that give more information about school climate,” said Wattenberg.

The District’s application can be found here and the State Board’s recommendations can be found here.

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