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Seven States Get NCLB Waiver Renewals

By Alyson Klein — August 06, 2015 3 min read
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And now there are 31. The U.S. Department of Education just approved seven additional renewals of state flexibility from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. The states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.

Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Wisconsin each got three-year renewals through the 2017-18 school year, meaning they won’t have to make another ask during President Barack Obama’s tenure (if waivers even last that long.)

Mississippi’s approval comes fresh off the state’s decision to select a vendor—Pearson—to design the state’s common core-linked assessment, after the Magnolia state ditched the Patnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is still searching for a test after getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, or SBAC.

Arizona, Arkansas, and New Hampshire each got one-year waivers. Arizona’s one-year waiver stems in part from recent civil rights concerns with English Language Learners.

And New Hampshire’s renewal period is shortened because the state has some work to do on teacher and principal evaluations. It also must provide evidence, by October 2015, that its high school assessment is of high quality.

The Granite State has proposed switching from SBAC to the College Board’s SAT, in part to cut down on the number of tests high school juniors must take.

That’s something Connecticut, which got a three waiver and also wants to use the SAT, will have to address, too. That didn’t stop the Nutmeg State’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, from celebrating the waiver renewal. Last year, Malloy let U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan know his state was mulling a switch to the SAT, in part to cut down on the tests eleventh graders must take.

Arkansas, which recently dumped PARCC and is moving towards offering the ACT, another college entrance exam, must also show that its test meets quality benchmarks. And the state needs to show how it plans to include student growth in teacher evaluation system.

Other things to note:

  • Connecticut essentially got the same deal as Florida when it comes to assessing English-language learners. Under the Nutmeg State’s renewed waiver, schools won’t have to count the achievement of students who have been in the country for less than two years for accountability purposes. (The NCLB law says achievement of ELLs has to count after a kid has attended U.S. schools for one year.) Crucially, however, Connecticut will still need to incorporate the growth, or progress, of ELLs into school ratings during their second year of education in this country. Other states have asked the department for other kinds of flexibility on ELLs and been denied, or told to pursue their requests separately. But importantly, those states weren’t planning to include growth in the second year. This is a really big deal, because when and how to incorporate ELLs for accountability purposes is a sleeper issue in the debate over NCLB reauthorization.
  • Alabama got permission to ditch its A through F grading system, established initially under its waiver. And Arizona is also getting out of the A through F business, instead sticking with the waivers wonky labels for schools “priority”, “focus” and “reward.”

  • Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, and New Hampshire asked for, and got, the chance to “pause” school ratings to help ease the transition to new tests during the 2014-15 school year (which, it has to be noted, is already over.) That brings the total of “paused” states to 14. Others include: Alaska, Maryland Kansas, Oregon, Nevada, West Virginia, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Delaware, as well as the District of Columbia.

Having trouble keeping track of all this? We got a map for that!

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