AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education received a three-year waiver allowing flexibility regarding specific requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB), whose reauthorization was recently debated and is being revised in our nation’s capital. While the revised ESEA shrinks the federal role yielding greater power to states to judge student achievement and school performance (from regulations outlined under NCLB), this recent waiver provides Maine educators and State and local leaders the opportunity for continued work toward 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.
“In 2013, Maine’s waiver application was approved by USDOE, but this renewal of the waiver required diligent, persistent work on behalf of Maine DOE,” says Acting Commissioner Thomas Desjardin. “We worked relentlessly with Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education and his staff as the federal government had exerted extreme authority over states in the past. The Maine DOE staff worked diligently in securing the original waiver and again in this renewal process in making adjustments addressing USDOE points. In March, Maine lawmakers joined in passing legislation, LD 692, including rule making, to assist our efforts in this waiver renewal request, making this a collaborative effort.”
This waiver, the first three-year waiver ever issued by USDOE, allows Maine to continue on the path with more time for students to learn and educators to teach. ESEA flexibility has and will continue to allow Maine to focus resources on comprehensive, rigorous interventions in the lowest-performing schools, while ensuring that all low-achieving students have the supports they need to catch up to their peers. ESEA flexibility also has an effect of energizing teacher and principal effectiveness work across Maine and puts the focus on creating feedback systems that show the impact teachers and principals are having on student learning and shine a light on best practices to support teachers’ development.
At the heart of the State’s continued efforts is a system of differentiated recognition, accountability and support for Maine’s Title I-served schools, distinguished not just by student proficiency but also progress. As a result, Maine’s mission is to cut in half the percentage of non-proficient students at each school in the coming years. This is done through the continued implementation of the Maine Learning Results, a set of high standards geared to help Maine students be career and college ready.