Secretary’s Approval Letter (Minnesota) ESEA Flexibility

February 9, 2012


Honorable Brenda Cassellius

Commissioner of Education

Minnesota Department of Education

1500 Highway 36 West

Roseville, MN 55113-4266

Dear Commissioner Cassellius:

I am pleased to approve Minnesota’s request for ESEA flexibility. I congratulate you on submitting a request that demonstrates Minnesota’s commitment to improving academic achievement and the quality of instruction for all of the State’s elementary and secondary school students.

Last fall, 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 Minnesota’s request.

Our decision to approve Minnesota’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, Minnesota 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 Minnesota’s assurance that it will meet these four principles by implementing the high-quality plans and other elements of its request as described in its request and in accordance with the required timelines. In approving Minnesota’s request, we have taken into consideration the feedback we received from the panel of peer experts and Department staff who reviewed Minnesota’s request, as well as Minnesota’s revisions to its request in response to that feedback.

The waivers that comprise ESEA flexibility are being granted to Minnesota 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 2013–2014 school year. At that time, Minnesota may request an extension of these waivers.

In the coming days, you will receive a letter from Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, containing additional information regarding Minnesota’s implementation of ESEA flexibility, as well as information regarding monitoring and reporting. Please note that the Department will closely monitor Minnesota’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.

Minnesota 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 Minnesota’s approved request for ESEA flexibility will be posted on the Department’s Web site at: Again, I congratulate you on the approval of Minnesota’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 Minnesota’s ESEA flexibility request and work to improve the quality of instruction and academic achievement for all students.



Arne Duncan


cc: Governor Mark Dayton

Sam Kramer, Federal Education Policy Specialist


Provisions Waived Through Approval of Minnesota’s

Request for ESEA Flexibility

ESEA Section



State-Level Reservation for School Improvement


Requires State educational agency (SEA) to reserve 4 percent of its Title I, Part A allocation for school improvement activities and to distribute at least 95 percent to local educational agencies (LEAs) for use in Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, and restructuring

The reservation is not waived; SEA may distribute section 1003(a) funds to LEAs for use in priority and focus schools

School Improvement Grants


Requires SEA to award School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds to LEAs with Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring

Waiver permits SEA to award SIG funds to an LEA to implement one of the four SIG models in any priority school

2013–2014 Timeline

1111(b)(2)(E) – (H)

Establishes requirements for setting annual measurable objectives (AMOs)

Waiver permits SEA to set new ambitious but achievable AMOs

Schoolwide Poverty Threshold


Requires 40 percent poverty threshold to be eligible to operate a schoolwide program

Waiver permits LEA with less than 40 percent poverty to operate a schoolwide program in a priority school or a focus school that is implementing a schoolwide intervention

School Improvement Requirements

1116(b) (except (b)(13))

Requires LEA to identify schools for improvement, corrective action, and restructuring with corresponding requirements

1116(b)(13), which requires LEA to permit a child who has transferred to remain in the choice school through the highest grade in the school, is not waived

LEA Improvement Requirements

1116(c)(3) and (5) – (11)

Requires SEA to identify LEAs for improvement and corrective action with corresponding requirements





Requires SEA and LEAs to take a variety of actions to offer supplemental educational services to eligible students in schools in improvement, corrective action, restructuring


Reservation for State Academic Achievement Awards Program


Limits the schools that can receive Title I, Part A funds reserved for State awards program

Waiver allows funds reserved for State awards program to go to any reward school

Highly Qualified Teacher Plan Accountability Agreement Requirement


Requires SEA/LEA agreement on use of Title II, Part A funds for LEAs that miss AYP for three years and fail to make progress toward reaching annual objectives for highly qualified teachers

Waiver includes existing agreements and applies to restrictions on hiring paraprofessionals under Title I, Part A

Limitations on Transferability of Funds


Limits to 50 percent the amount an SEA may transfer from a covered program into another covered program or into Title I, Part A

Waiver applies to the percentage limitation, thereby permitting SEA to transfer up to 100 percent from a covered program


Limits to 50 percent or 30 percent the amount an LEA may transfer from a covered program into another covered program or into Title I, Part A

Waiver applies to the percentage limitations as well as to the restrictions on the use of transferred funds


Requires modification of plans and notice of transfer



Transferred funds are subject to the requirements of the program to which they are transferred

Waiver permits an LEA to exclude funds transferred into Title I, Part A from the base in calculating any set-aside percentages

Rural Schools


Requires LEAs that fail to make AYP to use funds to carry out the requirements under ESEA section 1116



Requires SEA to permit LEAs that fail to make AYP to continue to receive a Small, Rural School Achievement grant only if LEA uses funds to carry out ESEA section 1116


The corresponding regulations that implement these statutory provisions are also waived. Any ESEA statutory provision not listed in this table is not waived.

Secretary's Approval Letter (Minnesota) ESEA Flexibility