NCLB Waivers Create New Opportunities for K-12 Sales

K-12 Salesby Jenny House, Ph.D.

NCLB Fueled Sales to K-12 Schools for Ten Years. What's Next?

When the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) became law in 2002, it provided large sums of money to states for education. As you probably know, those funds fueled sales of a wide range of products and services, particularly for elementary reading and math programs. NCLB included very strict performance requirements, including a 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and language arts. During the past ten years concerns about NCLB requirements have mounted. Reauthorization of the legislation has been awaiting Congressional action since 2007 while concerns continue to rise.

NCLB Waivers Offer Flexibility and New Education Marketing Opportunities 

To provide some relief from the provisions of NCLB, the Obama administration is offering waivers to states that wish to apply. The program is called ESEA Flexibility, but most refer to it as “NCLB waivers” or just “waivers.” The first 11 waivers were granted in February of 2012, and more applications are in process. Below, I provide some details that will be helpful in focusing your K-12 sales plans. I also encourage you to listen to me discuss this topic on STS radio with show host, Glen McCandless.

The philosophy behind waivers is to give control back to the states and to encourage both rigor and innovation. The Department of Education will waive the cornerstone requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the 2014 proficiency deadline. In exchange for this flexibility, the administration requires rigorous state-developed plans that include:

  • Adopting college- and career-ready standards
  • Having a strong focus on the most troubled schools
  • Creating guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance

The waivers and related planning to address these priorities present timely opportunities for K-12 sales and marketing organizations to refocus their messages and sales presentations.

Target NCLB Waiver Opportunity With State-Specific K-12 Sales Plans

There are now 26 states that have received permission to work around No Child Left Behind. Eleven states were awarded waivers in February 2012: CO, FL, GA, IN, KY, MA, MN, NJ, NM, OK, TN. Changes based on waivers will begin to be seen in the 2012–13 school year, but for most states implementation will be rolled out in phases. Some states have not committed to being fully implemented until 2013–14, and others (such as Massachusetts) not until 2014–15.

The remaining states with approved waivers include Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, six states that did not complete the entire waiver process -- and one (Iowa) whose application was rejected -- got a one-year freeze on the rising targets for standardized test scores: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, and West Virginia. There are still 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, that are waiting to have their waivers approved: Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, and South Carolina.

How NCLB Waivers Will Impact K-12 Sales and Education Marketing 

When waivers are awarded, the way they are implemented will have a definite impact on the way business is conducted in those states. The issues affect sales, marketing messaging, and even product development, as shown in the table below:

K12 Reading Market




About the Author

Jenny House, Ph.D.is President and Founder of RedRock Reports. She provides strategic vision on funding from both business and education perspectives. Her work is informed by years of experience in school administration as well as industry management and includes positions at H/P and Apple, as well as executive positions at Classroom Connect and Tenth Planet.