A Waiver from the Waivers

The U.S. Department of Education has decided that due to ambitious timelines for the implementation of college and career-ready standards, new assessments aligned with those standards, and new teacher and principal evaluations, states may request waivers to ensure that there is sufficient time to prepare teachers for implementation of the new standards before stakes are associated with student mastery.

A blog post from Secretary Duncan dated 6/18/13 states the following:

“…I sent a letter to state chiefs today telling them that our administration is open to requests for flexibility with the deadline for implementing new systems of evaluating principals and teachers. States that request and are given this flexibility can delay any personnel consequences for teachers and principals tied to the new assessments for up to one year, until 2016-17. Some states are well underway and are unlikely to seek a delay. Others may want more time. In a country as diverse as ours, one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work, so we will work with each state individually to find the right path and the right pace. This change affects only the timeline for teacher and principal evaluation; schools and districts accountability timelines will not change.

States must have solid plans to provide teachers support to help them make this transition, and to survey teachers about their comfort with the new standards.

Any delay has real consequences for real students in the real world. Their readiness has real consequences for their lives and the nation’s economic health. Yet this effort will only succeed if all parties – and especially teachers and principals — have the time, resources and support needed to make the journey from the often inadequate standards of the past to the ambitious standards of tomorrow.

I also want to address the issue of “double-testing,” which will arise during the 2013-2014 school year, when some schools will field test new assessments. Often, during a transition from one test to another, some small proportion of students take both tests. While field testing new assessments is necessary for a successful transition to the new tests, this can lead to administering two end-of-year tests to some students in the same year, which can add stress for students. We want to support states that would like to avoid double-testing students. Therefore, we are open to any state impacted by double-testing to request a one-year waiver to allow schools that participate in a field test to have students take only one end-of-year test. In those schools, provisions for school-level accountability would stay the same for a year, as would intervention plans that support low-performing students – we want to make sure there’s no reduction in the intensity of support for such students.”

For the entire blog post from Secretary Duncan, please see http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/06/new-flexibility-for-states-implementing-fast-moving-reforms-laying-out-our-thinking/

For the text of Secretary Duncan’s letter, see http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/130618.html

For a chart of current state-by-state implementation requirements, download a timeline here: http://ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/eseaflexstchart614.doc