The U.S. Department of Education will allow some states that have gotten waivers from pieces of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to postpone using student growth on state tests as a factor in personnel decisions for up to one a...
The U.S. Department of Education will allow some states that have gotten waivers from pieces of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to postpone using student growth on state tests as a factor in personnel decisions for up to one additional year, EdWeek has learned—until the 2016-17 school year.
States would have to make their case to Duncan for the new flexibility, and the Department will approve the plans on a case-by-case basis—so no blanket waivers for everyone.
In order to get the flexibility, states would have to show that they have a "robust" plan in place for making sure teachers are well-versed in new standards and assessments.
Some background: In order to get flexibility from the Education Department on pieces of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the much-maligned 2013-14 deadline for bringing all students to proficiency on state assessments, states had to agree to adopt rigorous standards in reading and math that prepare students for higher education and the workplace. Most states choose to do this by adopting the Common Core State Standards, which are in place in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Virginia decided to go with its own homegrown standards.
As part of the waiver process, states were expected to put in place new assessments aligned to the standards. Two consortia, with a $360 million assist from the federal government, are developing tests aligned to the common core.
The assessments are expected to be rolled out in the 2014-15 school year. In the meantime, some states are using their own common-core aligned tests. And according to their waiver plans, states are supposed to start using student growth on those assessments to make personnel decisions about teachers, like whether they get extra pay, a promotion—or get to keep their jobs. Teacher evaluation has been the trickiest piece of waiver implementation so far.
Right now, states have a range of timelines for using the assessments to inform personnel decisions. Delaware, Florida, and Rhode Island, for instance, planned to get started in the 2012-13 school year, while Louisiana, Indiana, Washington and Tennessee aimed to get going by 2013-14. Connecticut, D.C., Georgia, and others had agreed to begin in 2014-15. And other states, including Arkansas, and Colorado, were shooting for the 2015-16 school year.
The new flexibility would only apply to states whose waiver requests were approved before the summer of 2012—that's Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Who is not eligible? States whose waivers were just approved: Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia.
And that's not all; the department is offering states flexibility to avoid "double-testing" of students, which is going to happen as states begin to test-drive the new common core aligned assessments. Under the new flexibility, any state could make a request to the Department of Education to use just one test in schools—either a field test designed to help work out the kinks in the new assessment system, or the regular state assessment. State officials pointed out that offering both tests would eat up a lot of valuable instructional time and had asked for some additional leeway, as reported in this fantastic (and prescient) story by my colleagues Michele McNeil and Catherine Gewertz.
The decision to offer flexibility didn't come out of nowhere. Groups representing educators have expressed concerns that the department may be prodding states to move way too fast on teacher evaluation and that the added pressure on educators could hinder implementation of the common core. The Council of Chief State School O