August 29, 2013
Dear Chief State School Officer:
In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) offered each State educational agency (SEA) the opportunity to request flexibility on behalf of itself and its local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools. This voluntary opportunity provided educators and State and local leaders with flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive State-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. Now, a year and a half later, I invite each SEA that received approval of an ESEA flexibility request it submitted in Window 1 (November 2011) or Window 2 (February 2012) to request an extension of the waivers it received through ESEA flexibility for two additional school years, through the 2015–2016 school year.
Accompanying this letter are two documents. The first, titled ESEA Flexibility Guidance for Renewal Process, provides useful information about the substantive requirements for receiving renewal as well as information about the renewal process. The second, titled ESEA Flexibility Renewal Form, should be used by an SEA to request renewal of ESEA flexibility. Both documents are currently in draft form as they are open for comment on the estimated burden to respond to the information collection under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The substance in the two drafts, however, should provide a solid basis for developing your plans for renewal and serve as a springboard for soliciting input from key stakeholders throughout your State. ED will issue final documents in late Fall.
An eligible SEA is invited to submit its request for renewal of ESEA flexibility in one of three phases early next year: January 2-10 (Phase A); January 22-31 (Phase B); or February 12-21 (Phase C). In general, requests will be reviewed during the phase that they are received by the Department. Although these dates are several months away and the attached documents are currently open for comment on the information collection burden, I strongly encourage an interested SEA to begin planning for the renewal process and consulting with your stakeholders, including LEAs, teachers, students, and parents, as soon as possible.
I ask that each SEA interested in requesting renewal of ESEA flexibility indicate by December 15, 2013 in which of the three phases noted above it will likely submit its request. Please indicate your intent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming month, ED will conduct a webinar for all SEAs eligible for ESEA flexibility renewal. This will be an opportunity for you and your staff to ask questions and learn more about the ESEA flexibility renewal process. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your ESEA flexibility State contact.
Thank you for your commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students. I look forward to our continued partnership in this critical work.
Deborah S. Delisle