August 12, 2013
Honorable Stephen Bowen
Commissioner of Education
Maine Department of Education
23 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Dear Commissioner Bowen:
I am pleased to approve Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility. I congratulate you on submitting a request that demonstrates Maine’s commitment to improving academic achievement and the quality of instruction for all of the State’s elementary and secondary school students.
In the fall of 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) offered States the opportunity to request flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. This flexibility is intended to support the groundbreaking reforms already taking place in many States and districts that we believe hold promise for improving outcomes for students. I am encouraged by the innovative thinking and strong commitment to improving achievement for all students that is evident in Maine’s request.
Our decision to approve Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility is based on our determination that the request meets the four principles articulated in the Department’s updated June 7, 2012, document titled ESEA Flexibility. In particular, Maine has: (1) demonstrated that it has college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developed and demonstrated that it has a high-quality plan to implement a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for all Title I districts and schools in the State; (3) committed to developing, adopting, piloting, and implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that support student achievement; and (4) provided an assurance that it will evaluate and revise its administrative requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden on districts and schools. This approval decision is also based on Maine’s assurance that it will meet these four principles by implementing the high-quality plan and other elements described in its request and in accordance with the required timelines. In approving Maine’s request, I have taken into consideration the feedback that was received from the panel of peer experts and Department staff who reviewed Maine’s request, as well as Maine’s revisions to its request in response to that feedback.
The waivers that comprise ESEA flexibility are being granted to Maine pursuant to my authority in section 9401 of the ESEA. A complete list of the statutory provisions being waived is set forth in the table enclosed with this letter. Consistent with section 9401(d)(1) of the ESEA, I am granting waivers of these provisions through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. At that time, Maine may request an extension of these waivers.
In the coming days, you will receive a letter from Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, containing additional information regarding Maine’s implementation of ESEA flexibility, as well as information regarding monitoring and reporting. Please note that the Department will closely monitor Maine’s implementation of the plans, systems, and interventions detailed in its request in order to ensure that all students continue to receive the assistance and supports needed to improve their academic achievement.
Maine continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility as well as their implementation of all other Federal education programs. These laws include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
A copy of Maine’s approved request for ESEA flexibility will be posted on the Department’s Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests. Again, I congratulate you on the approval of Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility and thank you for the work that you and your staff have done. I look forward to continuing to support you as you implement Maine’s ESEA flexibility request and work to improve the quality of instruction and academic achievement for all students.
cc: Governor Paul LePage
Deborah C. Friedman, Director of Policy and Programs