Congress is making real progress on the first major rewrite of education law in more than a dozen years. These efforts may portend a rare legislative success for both Republicans and Democrats in a divided Washington.

 In House Bill 866, signed last month by Governor Rick Perry, Texas hopes to allow high State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test takers to skip certain exams. While the bill has been signed by Gov. Perry, it cannot go into practice unless Texas receives a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

For nearly 300 weeks, No Child Left Behind has been in a legislative slumber on Capitol Hill.  That’s how long it’s been since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), expired. Now, in the span of just two days, Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate have unveiled competing plans to revamp NCLB. It marks the first significant signs that NCLB might be awakening from its deep sleep. 

The U.S. Department of Education approved three additional waivers for No Child Left Behind this week, bringing to 37 the number of states that have been granted federal waivers since fall 2011.  Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia are the latest states to be granted flexibility from provisions of NCLB, which has been due for reauthorization since 2007.

The Obama administration has approved seven more requests for waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The approved states include Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia. States receiving waivers were required to develop plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced on Friday that five additional states - Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia - will receive flexibility from the accountability mandates of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  

Eight more states and the District of Columbia will have flexibility to adopt alternative accountability measures to those imposed under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind or NCLB.  NCLB set a goal that every student would reach proficiency in reading and math by the 2013-14 school year. Under federal waivers, which were authorized by President Barack Obama last fall, states will have the freedom to develop alternate accountability measures. 

Today, The Council of State Governments joined with nine organizations representing state and local governments to urge Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. The current version of ESEA, known as the No Child Left Behind Act, expired almost five years ago, and broad reforms are long overdue.

The relevant committees in the U.S. House and Senate have already passed versions of ESEA, but the chances of Congress passing a full bill wane as the 2012 election approaches.

The No Child...

Today, President Obama released the names of the 10 states that will receive flexibility from a set of mandates in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known as No Child Left Behind.  Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee received approval.  An 11th state, New Mexico, submitted a request, but it was not granted at this time.  U.S. Department of Education officials will continue to work with New Mexico's education leaders to make adjustments to their initial request.  Officials in 28  states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico say they will request a waiver to NCLB mandates by Feb. 21, 2012 for the second submission opportunity.

Educators and policymakers realize that all of America’s students need a high-quality education to prepare them for college and careers. 2012 promises to be another busy year in  transformational strategies in education. In order to ensure a world-class education, leaders will likely address these top five issues facing states and territories (“the states”) this year.