Because Congress has not yet reauthorized ESEA/NCLB, the US Department of Education has taken action by providing an ESEA flexibility package to states.
The approval of state waivers has created state-focused accountability in each state. The Department of Education grants states waivers in return for states’ agreement to implement certain reform measures. Under the waiver process 42 states, the District of Columbia and a group of eight districts in California now have greater flexibility in how they may use federal program funds to support state and local school improvement efforts. The Department is also reviewing waiver requests for four more states. For students with learning disabilities (LD), one of the major positive changes in the waiver agreements is the requirement that any state giving students with LD and other disabilities the “modified assessment on modified achievement standards” (or the 2% assessment) as allowed under current law, must transition all students taking the modified test to the general assessment by 2014–2015. Unfortunately, major provisions in many of the state waivers do not support students with LD because they:
- Require intervention in only the bottom 10-15% of schools which leaves 85% of schools without resources; and students are left to flounder.
- Allow for different annual measurable objectives for different subgroups (so, students with disabilities can have different/lower targets compared to their white, black, Hispanic, poor peers)
- Weaken high school graduation goals and targets
- Allow assessment participation rates to slip so that many students won’t be included in standardized testing and therefore not targeted for support and intervention.
NCLD co-signed a letter to Secretary Duncan with other civil rights and education groups to oppose the weakened high school graduation requirements.
On February 7, 2013 the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee—chaired by Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Sen. Alexander (R-TN)—conducted a waiver hearing. NCLD submitted this letter to all Senate HELP committee members to outline our concerns and several recommendations we continue to make to both the U.S. Department of Education and Congress.
In April 2013, we also joined with 7 other civil rights groups to oppose the granting of waivers directly to school districts because such waivers would lead to differing expectations from district to district. In October 2013, we expanded our coalition and made recommendations for improving the waiver process as it goes forward.
More information on this process is available on the U.S. Department of Education website's ESEA Flexibility homepage.
The 42 states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, that have been approved for waivers from NCLB include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Eight school districts in California recently were awaarded ESEA waiver flexibility as the Core District waiver.
The three states, plus the Bureau of Indian Education, with outstanding requests for waivers include: Illinois, Iowa and Wyoming.
The five states that have not yet requested a waiver include: California, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota (request withdrawn), and Vermont (request withdrawn).
Here is an interactive map showing which states have waivers, pending waivers or did not apply for a waiver. If you mouse over any particular state, you will the state's waiver status and a link for more information.
Below, NCLD provides a snapshot of the individual state applications regarding: assessment, graduation rates and any specific mentions of how the state will improve teaching and learning for students with disabilities.
AR | AZ | CO | CT | DC | FL | GA | ID | IN | KS | KY | MA | MI | MN | MO | MS | NC | NJ | NM | NV | OH | OR | OK | SC | SD | TN | UT | VA | WA | WI |
ArizonaFor more information on Arizona's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
ArkansasFor more information on Arkansas' waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
ColoradoHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Colorado will provide online classes, professional development, and instructional tools that target the needs of students with disabilities. Additionally, if students with disabilities are identified as a priority school’s focus, the state expects that the improvement strategies include interventions for this group of students. Unified Improvement Plan (UIP) quality criteria include review criteria for interventions for students with disabilities as well as reviews of school program staff with expertise about students with disabilities.
For more information on Colorado’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
ConnecticutFor more information on Connecticut's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
District of ColumbiaFor more information on DC's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
FloridaHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Florida is now required to include students with disabilities in the performance component of the school grades (A–F) calculation for Reading, Mathematics, Writing, and Science as well as all other components (see condition on the waiver). The Florida plan did not specifically address graduation rates for students with disabilities. Also, Florida is participating with the National Center and State Collaborate General Supervision Enhancement Grant to define college and career ready for students with disabilities and analyzing learning factors for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
For more information on Florida’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
GeorgiaHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Georgia noted that alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards will not be an allowable testing option in 2014–2015. For graduation rates for students with disabilities, they set a 2012 performance target of 49% with approximately 4.7% annual increases. While this is not included in the accountability system as a built-in requirement, the state intends to publish these rates online with performance flags.
The GA Department of Education will provide district level support to districts with Focus Schools, such as support from specialists in the areas of English learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. Additionally, the College and Career Ready Performance Index for elementary schools and middle schools includes an indicator to measure English Language Learners’ (ELL) performance on an annual basis and the number of students with disabilities served in general classrooms greater than 80% of the school day.
For more information on Georgia’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
IdahoFor more information on Idaho's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
IndianaHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Indiana’s application notes that they have begun to analyze the learning and accommodation factors necessary to ensure that students with disabilities will have the opportunity to achieve to the college and career ready standards. Indiana, as with other states that presently administer a 2% assessment based on modified achievement standards, will begin to assess students under their regular assessment program with supports and accommodations in the 2014–2015 school year.
For more information on Indiana’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
KansasFor more information on Kansas' waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
KentuckyHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Over the past year, in preparation for the Alternate K-PREP (formerly Kentucky Alternate Assessment Program) Standards rolled out recently to teachers across the state, KY Department of Education has worked with the state’s Special Education Cooperatives and institutions of higher education to produce instructional and curriculum supports for the new reading, writing, and math standards. These materials are all based on the Common Core State Standards. The materials include: podcasts, training materials and instructional tools to assist teachers as they implement the new Common Core Standards with students with disabilities.
Additionally, students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs) are included in the performance data used to identify schools and implement interventions, and are included in both the proficiency and gap reduction components of the accountability system index. They have been included in regular school and district improvement processes in order to ensure they receive
For more information on Kentucky’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
MassachusettsHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Massachusetts is developing model curriculum units and performance assessments “explicitly designed to support teaching and learning for all students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, low achieving students and students achieving at advanced levels.”
For more information on Massachusetts’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
MichiganFor more information on Michigan's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
MinnesotaHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Minnesota is working to limit the use of its 2% assessment (based on modified achievement standards), moving toward phasing it out in 2014–15. The state did not address graduation rates for students with disabilities.
For more information on Minnesota’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
MississippiFor more information on Mississippi's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
MissouriFor more information on Missouri's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
New JerseyHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
New Jersey has indicated that the first version of the model curriculum, aligned to both Common Core State Standards(CCSS) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and developed for implementation during the 2012–2013 school year, will include five six- week units including CCSS- and UDL-aligned student learning objectives (SLOs), recommendations for scaffolding SLOs to meet the needs of students with disabilities, English language learners and/or low-achieving students, as well as end-of-unit assessments aligned to UDL principles and designed to separately assess each uto better inform the improvement and differentiation of instruction. New Jersey Focus schools that are identified as not meeting the needs of students with disabilities will be required to implement various measures and special note is made to provide professional development for all teachers.
New Jersey also creates a “Peer School Ranking” that represents the school's performance when compared to a group of schools with similar demographics, such as the percentage of free and reduced lunch students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and percentage of Black and Hispanic students. This “Peer School Ranking” will be used in New Jersey’s school performance reports to highlight where a school is out/underperforming their peers in regards to subgroups.
For more information on New Jersey’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
NevadaFor more information on Nevada's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
How the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Under the application, “teachers and specialized instructional support personnel will receive professional development in order to be prepared and qualified to deliver high-quality, evidence-based, individualized instruction and support services to students with disabilities.” In New Mexico’s common core state standards plan the application notes that “special populations will be addressed as part of all PED professional development offerings. Professional development guidance and tools will be provided to ensure equity and rigor for all students while addressing linguistic and cultural diversity. Districts will expand teacher knowledge of differentiated instruction to better serve Students with Disabilities, Culturally & Linguistically Diverse students, English Language Learners, and gifted students.
For more information on New Mexico’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
North CarolinaFor more information on North Carolina's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
OhioFor more information on Ohio's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
OklahomaHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Oklahoma will phase out its existing 2% assessment based on modified achievement standards. Oklahoma does not address graduation rates of students with disabilities. In preparation for the common core assessments PARCC assessments, Oklahoma is updating curriculum access resource guides to provide suggestions and activities aligned to the common core to benefit students with disabilities.
For more information on Oklahoma’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation
OregonFor more information on Oregon's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
South CarolinaFor more information on South Carolina's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
South DakotaFor more information on South Dakota's waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver
TennesseeHow the waiver affects students with disabilities:
Tennessee will phase out its existing 2% assessment by the 2014–2015 school year. During this phase out period, scores for students with disabilities who take the modified achievement standards assessment will be included in the assessment data in the accountability system so long as the number of those proficient and advanced scores does not exceed 2% of all students in the grades assessed at the district and state levels. Tennessee will continue to permit school districts to exceed the 1% cap on the number of proficient and advanced scores based on the alternate achievement standards that can be included in calculations if the district establishes that the incidence of students with the most significant disabilities, as defined by the state, exceeds the limit and if the district documents circumstances that explain the higher percentage. Proficient scores exceeding this cap must be changed to below proficient for accountability purposes.
For more information on Tennessee’s waivers: Overview of ESEA Waiver | Accountability Summary | Educator Evaluation | Standards Implementation