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Federal education secretary Arne Duncan.

Federal education secretary Arne Duncan.

Tennessee receives new extension of waiver from No Child Left Behind

The U.S. Department of Education has granted Tennessee schools a short extension of its waiver from the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The waiver extension, which lasts through the end of the school year, means the state will continue to receive federal funds for its schools even though they do not meet the strict requirements of NCLB, which requires, among other things, that 100 percent of students score proficient or above on standardized tests in certain subjects by the end of this year.

In exchange for the waiver, the state’s department agreed to implement a series of policy changes to improve schools, including tying its teacher evaluations to students’ test scores and identifying and sending resources to schools in need of improvement. This extension was contingent on the state addressing issues raised on a federal monitoring report issued earlier this year.

Tennessee’s extension does not come as a surprise, as state education officials have embraced many of the policies promoted by the current education department. “Tennessee has been ahead of the curve in a lot of the teacher evaluation work,” said Anne Hyslop, a policy analyst for Bellwether Education, a consulting group.

“As always, our focus continues to be on implementing the education plan that is best for students in Tennessee,” said Kelli Gauthier, the spokeswoman for Tennessee’s Education Department.

Tennessee’s initial waiver from NCLB was granted in 2012. The state had already received a $501 million federal Race to the Top grant in 2011, which supported similar policy changes.

As part of an effort to earn that grant, the state created a teacher evaluation system, adopted the Common Core State Standards and created the state-run Achievement School District, aimed at improving the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, among other efforts.

The state will have to apply for an extension again this spring. That extension could last for multiple years.

Tennessee is one of 43 states that had applied for a waiver from the requirements of NCLB. Twenty-three states have now had their waivers extended; others, including Oklahoma, have had their waivers revoked for not living up to the plans they outlined in their initial requests to the federal department.

In a press release, the federal Department of Education singles out Tennessee schools’ rollout of its teacher and principal evaluation systems; a convention of principals addressing how to address students’ needs in the state’s Focus Schools; and its work in preparing districts and teachers for the Common Core State Standards.

The District of Columbia also received an extension today, Politics K-12 reports.

NCLB is the most recent iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

You can find the state’s full request (and history) on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

The official letter is included below.