Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Nearly Half of States Opted to Hit Accountability Snooze Button

By Alyson Klein — August 28, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Test scores from new Common Core State Standards assessments are just beginning to trickle in. But in nearly half of the states, the results won’t have an effect on school ratings on state accountability systems, at least not for school year that just ended.

Here’s why: Last year, the U.S. Department of Education gave states that are transitioning to new tests the option to “pause” state-level accountability during the 2014-15 school year, when the exams were coming online. The idea was to give schools some breathing room as they adjust to new tests and more rigorous standards.

The option was really popular—24 states and the District of Columbia took the department up on it. And everyone has been approved, except for Colorado (which is still waiting for the greenlight on its No Child Left Behind Act waiver renewal).

Receiving the option are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. (A handful of those states don’t have waivers.)

The change means that a school that had a high rating last year, but maybe didn’t perform so well on new assessments, won’t necessarily have to worry about suddenly dropping from say, an “A” to a “D.”

But “the pause” is not a total and complete pass from all accountability. For instance, states with waivers from the NCLB law (that’s 42 states and the District of Columbia) will still have to identify new “priority schools” (the wonky waiver name given to the absolute lowest performing) and “focus schools” (other struggling schools), if they were scheduled to do so this year. (It’s complicated and wonky, but waiver states have different timelines for making these designations. Some do it every year, some do it less frequently than that.)

And states will still have to figure out a way to set achievement targets, even though they may be retroactive, which is just about as confusing as it sounds and has made some state officials pretty cranky.

Here’s the interesting thing about the pause: There’s been very little chatter about it, and it seems almost universally accepted as something the department and states simply had to do in the wake of all the changes ushered in by the waivers and common-core standards. But it’s easy to imagine that it would have sparked a huge outcry and controversy if the department had tried it, say, at the beginning of the Obama administration, when NCLB wasn’t quite so outdated. The fact that everyone has been so quiet about it and accepting is just one more sign that the federal role in accountability is on the wane, no matter what happens with NCLB reauthorization this fall.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP