May 20, 2013
Honorable Michael Hanley
Department of Education and Early Development
P.O. Box 110500
Juneau, AK 99811-0500
Dear Commissioner Hanley:
I am pleased to approve Alaska’s request for ESEA flexibility. I congratulate you on submitting a request that demonstrates Alaska’s commitment to improving academic achievement and the quality of instruction for all of the State’s elementary and secondary school students.
In fall 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) offered States the opportunity to request 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, in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. This flexibility is intended to support the groundbreaking reforms already taking place in many States and districts that we believe hold promise for improving outcomes for students. We are encouraged by the innovative thinking and strong commitment to improving achievement for all students that is evident in Alaska’s request.
Our decision to approve Alaska’s request for ESEA flexibility is based on our determination that the request meets the four principles articulated in the Department’s September 23, 2011, document titled ESEA Flexibility. In particular, Alaska has: (1) demonstrated that it has college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developed, and has a high-quality plan to implement, a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for all Title I districts and schools in the State; (3) committed to developing, adopting, piloting, and implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that support student achievement; and (4) provided an assurance that it will evaluate and, based on that evaluation, revise its administrative requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden on districts and schools. Our decision is also based on Alaska’s assurance that it will meet these four principles by implementing the high-quality plans and other elements described in its request and in accordance with the required timelines. In approving Alaska’s request, we have taken into consideration the feedback we received from the panel of peer experts and Department staff who reviewed Alaska’s request, as well as Alaska’s revisions to its request in response to that feedback.
The waivers that comprise ESEA flexibility are being granted to Alaska pursuant to my authority in section 9401 of the ESEA. A complete list of the statutory provisions being waived is set forth in the table enclosed with this letter. Consistent with section 9401(d)(1) of the ESEA, I am granting waivers of these provisions through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. At that time, Alaska may request an extension of these waivers.
In the coming days, you will receive a letter from Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, containing additional information regarding Alaska’s implementation of ESEA flexibility, as well as information regarding monitoring and reporting. Please note that the Department will closely monitor Alaska’s implementation of the plans, systems, and interventions detailed in its request in order to ensure that all students continue to receive the assistance and supports needed to improve their academic achievement.
Alaska continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility as well as their implementation of all other Federal education programs. These laws include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
A copy of Alaska’s approved request for ESEA flexibility will be posted on the Department’s Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests. Again, I congratulate you on the approval of Alaska’s request for ESEA flexibility and thank you for the work that you and your staff have done. I look forward to continuing to support you as you implement Alaska’s ESEA flexibility request and work to improve the quality of instruction and academic achievement for all students.
cc: Governor Sean Parnell
Margaret MacKinnon, Department of Education and Early Development
Susan McCauley, Department of Education and Early Development