Tennessee Receives Approval for Continued Freedom from Federal Education Law Provisions

Thursday, July 23, 2015 | 1:23pm

NASHVILLE— Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen today applauded the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of Tennessee’s waiver request from certain provisions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Tennessee was the first state in the country to request an ESEA waiver in 2011 and one of only 10 states to receive a waiver in the first round of approvals in 2012.

With the state’s current waiver set to expire this summer and no final action on federal ESEA reauthorization, the waiver renewal is crucial to Tennessee’s ability to establish and implement a state-specific accountability system and avoid the rigid Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) model established by NCLB.

“Tennessee’s schools and districts have made tremendous progress since the approval and implementation of our ESEA waiver,” said McQueen. “Today’s approval will allow us to continue our progress by focusing on our own established goal of growth in achievement for all students.”

While Tennessee’s waiver renewal will continue the state’s focus on achievement growth and closing achievement gaps, it contains some key provisions designed to address stakeholder feedback and further emphasize the state’s focus on school improvement as well as postsecondary and workforce readiness. These improvements include:

  • recognizing the growth of students who are the furthest behind;
  • ensuring school districts receive actionable information about areas of strength and opportunity;
  • establishing new pathways for school districts to demonstrate progress;
  • creating rigorous criteria for schools to exit the state’s Priority School list prior to the next official designation of Priority Schools; and
  • including ACT composite scores as a measure of postsecondary and workforce readiness

“This ESEA waiver is extremely important for the school districts and students of this state,” said Wayne Miller, Executive Director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. “It maintains strict accountability and transparency while recognizing real improvement by our students, teachers, schools and districts.”

An acknowledgment of Tennessee’s remarkable improvement in educational outcomes, of the seven states receiving waiver approval today, Tennessee is the only one receiving an additional four years of flexibility, the maximum numbers of years approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

To view Tennessee’s approved waiver application as well as a summary of specific provisions, visit the Tennessee Department of Education website at tn.gov/education/article/esea-waiver.