1. Florida

U.S. Department of Education renews Florida's NCLB waiver

Florida has received another year-long waiver from federal No Child Left Behind requirements, the U.S. Department of Education announced Friday.

U.S. officials said the state -- along with three others also granted waivers -- needed to be freed from the rules in order to have flexibility needed to implement its own education improvement plans:

Today's announcement provides an additional one year of flexibility for Florida, Ohio, Idaho, and South Dakota. Each of these states is making progress when it comes to college- and career-ready standards and assessments, rigorous differentiated systems of recognition, accountability and support, and teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. They're taking important steps toward ensuring that every child has the opportunity they deserve. These states also need more time to make adjustments to their flexibility plans in order to fully meet their commitments. To that end, some states are receiving one-year renewals while they continue finalizing their plans for the future, and South Dakota's waiver is being put on high-risk because of serious problems with its guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.

A year ago, Florida risked losing its waiver status because of a dispute, since resolved, over accountability testing. The feds have stated that Florida continues to make strides in making sure children receive a high-quality education. Those include:

- To support school districts in increasing the number of middle school students with early access to high school-level courses, Florida has increased the number of high school courses available to middle grades students and has continued to include acceleration in its accountability system. Together, these changes have led to an increase in the number of students in grades 6 to 8 who have taken the high school courses and end-of course assessments.

- To support the implementation of its college- and career-ready standards, the Florida Department of Education's Office of Communications has unveiled a new website that includes materials and videos for parents, educators and the public on what quality standards-based instruction looks like.

The federal government has granted NCLB waivers since 2012, amid some criticism that the administration does not have the authority to do so. Reauthorization of the act remains in limbo in the Congress.