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Texas’ NCLB Waiver Renewed, But Put on High Risk

By Alyson Klein — September 29, 2015 1 min read
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Texas will get to hang onto its No Child Left Behind Act waiver for one more year, but it’s in danger of losing the flexibility if it doesn’t shape up when it comes to teacher evaluation.

Texas is now the second state to have its waiver put on “high risk” status. The other is South Dakota, also over teacher evaluation.

The news here isn’t that Texas is on high risk. It’s that the state got its waiver renewed at all. Earlier this year, the Lone Star State essentially seemed to be daring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to pull its flexibility.

The department was initially really strict when it came to teacher evaluation, but it has become much more flexible recently. Texas’ renewal is essentially proof that the Education Department is most decidedly not in a waiver-pulling mood these days.

To be sure, the renewal comes with a long to-do list for Texas. The state has until January 15 to explain how its teacher evaluation system will meet the department’s parameters by the 2016-17 school year. And it will have to explain how it plans to measure student growth on state test scores in reading and math and use that data in evaluations. Plus, the state will have to check in with the department on a monthly basis to let them know how all this is progressing. More in this letter.

But Texas still doesn’t have to go back to NCLB Classic. (Gotta wonder how that makes Washington state feel, since it’s the only state to get its NCLB flexibility yanked and never restored, also because it wasn’t clear how the state was incorporating state test scores into evaluations.)

Meanwhile, Michael Williams, the Texas education commissioner, made it clear he’s not going to comply with the department’s asks.

“Throughout the waiver application process, I have made it clear to federal officials that I do not have nor will I ever seek the authority to compel local school districts to use one uniform teacher and principal evaluation system statewide,” Williams said in a statement. “Our state believes strongly in local control of our schools. As a result, we will continue discussing this specific point with the U.S. Department of Education, but they should not expect any shift in Texas’ position.”

And he said the state will contest the high-risk designation.

This news means that nearly every state that wanted a waiver renewal has one. Still waiting: Louisiana and Colorado.