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District of Columbia Receives ESEA Waiver Approval From US Department of Education

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Flexibility from ‘No Child Left Behind’ drives new DC school accountability system

Washington, DC –The District of Columbia was selected to receive waiver relief from the US Department of Education (ED) from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)–commonly known as 'No Child Left Behind.'   

Today’s approval arrives one month after the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (DC OSSE) submitted a revised ESEA flexibility application on behalf of the District of Columbia and will allow DC OSSE expanded accountability to, in addition to reading and mathematics, include science, composition and graduation rates to assess student growth.

“ESEA flexibility is not a retreat from accountability, but instead a bold step toward smarter accountability systems that will recognize the hard work taking place in DC to prepare our students to compete in the 21st Century,” said State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley.

“Education is one of the top priorities for my administration, and I am proud that the Department of Education recognizes our efforts to transition District of Columbia schools into a system that better prepares our students for college and meaningful careers,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

“Today’s federal waiver approval validates the improvements students, teachers and administrators have made throughout the District of Columbia, and I believe this is only the beginning of even better things to come.”

Components of the District’s new ESEA flexibility will begin this summer, and the US Department of Education praised DC OSSE for expansive community engagement in its original ESEA application.

“The District of Columbia went above and beyond what was required to inform the community and encourage public feedback,” described US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “In doing so, they provided a public engagement template that other states could learn a lot from.”

"This is great news for the students in the District of Columbia,” added D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “The increased flexibility will allow DCPS schools to innovate and thrive. I thank Superintendent Mahaley's team for its tireless work on behalf of all D.C. students and am grateful to Secretary Duncan for awarding this waiver. I look forward to working with DC OSSE to implement the new measures outlined in their application."

“We welcome the US Department of Education's waiver,” said Scott Pearson, Executive Director of the DC Public Charter School Board. "We believe on the whole that this represents an improvement for District charter schools and look forward to working with DC OSSE on its implementation.”

DC Deputy Mayor of Education De’Shawn Wright also expressed his encouragement by the collaborative efforts of stakeholders working on behalf of a shared commitment to education, stating: “I commend our education partners – DC OSSE, DCPS and PCSB – for their shared vision of achieving educational excellence for all District public schools and students.”

Mahaley thanked community members and local leadership groups including the State Board of Education for providing critical input during the waiver application process.

“We appreciate the continued support of our stakeholder groups and believe our newfound ESEA flexibility gives us the best chance to focus our resources where, how and when they are needed most.”

“And for all those who have spoken in a resounding voice about the importance of education throughout the District, today’s approval is a testament that we are listening.”

Note: A full version of the District of Columbia’s ESEA Waiver Application is available below.