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Michigan, Ohio Have Their NCLB Waivers Extended

Michigan and Ohio get to keep their No Child Left Behind Act waiver for another year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Friday morning.

The extensions came just one day after Duncan announced that waiver states can request to delay tying student test scores to teacher evaluations, a major shift (albeit one we've seen coming for a while) that has the potential to uproot what is one of the Obama administration's major policy priorities.

Michigan and Ohio are two of several states that received waiver extensions despite the fact that they're still hammering out changes to teacher-evaluation systems. Both waiver extension letters note that the states must keep working with the department to iron out potential kinks if they expect their waivers to be renewed again for the 2015-16 school year.

"America's schools and classrooms are undergoing some of the largest changes in decades—changes that will help prepare our students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that tomorrow's economy will require," Duncan said in a statement. "This extension will allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed to improve achievement for all students."

There was some question surrounding Michigan's waiver extension because the state legislature passed a budget in June prohibiting the use of common-core-aligned assessments. The department underscored that it is only granting the waiver extension on the condition that Michigan submit a "high-quality plan that details the steps Michigan will take to administer a high-quality assessment ... by the 2014-15 school year."

Overall, however, the department is impressed by Michigan's statewide support system, MI Excel, which provides priority and focus schools, the state's worst performers, with personnel specifically trained to help struggling schools take on various interventions. The state also captures information on school improvement in an online portal, making it easier for schools to replicate successful strategies.

As for Ohio, Duncan applauded the state department of education for creatively engaging parents on the various parts of their school reforms through personal interactions at the Ohio State fair.

For those keeping score at home, 43 states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers, including one, Washington state, that saw its flexibility revoked. Thirty-five states will see their waivers expire this summer. The Education Department has now approved 20 extensions. And 31 states have filed extension requests.

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