You don’t need a comprehensive No Child Left Behind waiver to get a reprieve from some of the law’s accountability requirements.
Five non-waiver states, including California, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and Washington are all transitioning to new tests aligned to the Common Core standards. So all five states applied for, and will be allowed to, “pause” their school rating systems this school year. That theoretically means an ‘A’ school could bomb the new state tests without having to worry about getting bumped down to the ‘C’ level. Schools will still have to publish their assessment data, though, so everyone can see how they performed.
The basic idea is to give teachers, administrators, and district leaders some breathing room as they get used to new assessments.
This marks the second year in a row of leeway in accountability for both Montana and California, both of which were allowed to use field tests (which by definition don’t work for school accountability) with all their students during the 2013-14 school year.
And both of those states got the reprieve without having to jump through the hoops of the Obama administration’s waivers, which call for embracing tricky policies like teacher evaluation through test-scores. (To be fair, they’re both still subject to some other not-so-pleasant-NCLB-era requirements that waiver states don’t have to worry about, like sending out letters to parents of schools that are failing to meet the outdated law’s achievement targets.)