The U.S. Department of Education today announced that Maryland is one of eight new states that has been granted flexibility from some of the long-standing requirements of No Child Left Behind.
Under the ruling, Maryland will be able to focus on rewarding those schools making improvement and distribute resources to help all schools move forward. The State's flexibility plan runs parallel with Maryland's Race to the Top project, and its efforts to strengthen educator evaluation and incorporation of student growth measures into that process.
Interim State Superintendent Bernard Sadusky said the welcome announcement will allow Maryland to provide stronger tools in the State's long-running efforts to improve schools.
"Federal officials are allowing Maryland to concentrate efforts on those schools in greatest need of assistance," Dr. Sadusky said. "We are not turning our back on accountability, and will continue to work to make certain all schools and students improve. At the same time, we are pleased the U.S. Department of Education will allow us to funnel resources into those classrooms with the most vexing issues."
Under the flexibility plan, the State will reset the annual progress goals for the next six years on a trajectory toward 2017, at which time each individual school is expected to reduce its percentage of non-proficient students by half – for each subgroup as well as for all students. The flexibility proposal also will give the State some room regarding how it recognizes those schools that are making progress, and how it focuses attention on those schools in need of intervention.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known in its most recent iteration as No Child Left Behind, has had as its goal that every student reach proficiency levels in reading and mathematics by the 2013-14 school year. While Maryland schools have made steady progress since the law was enacted in 2002, the rigid parameters of the law have been recognized by President Obama, Education Secretary Duncan, and other policymakers.
Secretary Duncan announced the ESEA flexibility plan last June, with the first group of 11 waiver states announced earlier this spring. Maryland applied in February in the program's second round. Nineteen states have now been approved for flexibility, with 17 states plus the District of Columbia still under review.
Maryland's application on behalf of the State, local school systems and schools, sought to improve focus on student learning and quality instruction. State officials held more than 40 meetings with stakeholders as they developed the flexibility application.
The new plan covered the principles required by the federal government under the program, including the development of college- and career-ready expectations for all students; state-developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for schools; and support for effective instruction and leadership.
Maryland's entire application can be found here: http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/programs/esea/ESEA