U.S. Ed. Dept. Issues Guidance on ‘Double-Testing’ Flexibility

By Catherine Gewertz — September 17, 2013 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In new guidance issued Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education offered states the chance to suspend their current tests this spring, as long as they administer field tests being designed by the two common-assessment consortia in math and English/language arts. States that use that option will not have to report the results of the field tests, according to the federal guidance on statewide testing.

In a letter to state schools superintendents, Deborah S. Delisle, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, explained the options for states as they transition their testing regimens to reflect the Common Core State Standards.

The guidance is intended to help states facing potential “double testing” of their students in 2013-2014 by giving their own tests as well as field tests of the assessments being designed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. It aims to provide more detail on the testing flexibility that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered initially in June.

In her letter, Delisle said states can give either their own tests, or a consortium field test, as long as each student takes a complete test in both math and English/language arts. States that use the field tests will not be required to report results, she wrote.

“A field test is not designed to be a valid and reliable measure of student achievement; rather, it is designed to help the test developers evaluate whether the tests, individual items, and the technology platform work as intended before the first operational administration,” the letter says. “As a result, neither an SEA [state department of education] nor its local educational agencies [LEAs] are required to report field-test results—either individual student results to parents and teachers or on State or local [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] report cards.”

States and districts must, however, continue to report results, including progress toward their stated goals, for students who take the state’s own tests. And regardless of whether they choose their own state tests or the field tests, they must report participation rates, in the aggregate and for subgroups.

UPDATE: The guidance didn’t directly address the question of whether a state can set aside its current math and English/language arts tests for 2014 and use only field tests, as California is planning to do, despite Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s warning that doing so could cost it part of its Title I money as a penalty.

When pressed on whether the guidance allows a state to use only field tests for all tested students in 2014, a department spokesman responded only that it “allows states to give either the field test or the current state test to an individual student.”

California officials, however, concluded that the federal guidance does not look kindly on their plan. In a statement, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education Chairman Michael W. Kirst said that their plan, embodied in legislation awaiting Gov. Jerry’s Brown’s signature, “would not meet the requirements outlined in today’s guidance,” but that they continue to believe it is the best way to proceed.

“While this may put California technically and temporarily out of compliance with federal testing mandates, we’re confident that we can work with our colleagues in Washington to effectively manage this transition and arrive at our shared goal: a modern assessment and accountability system that supports teaching and learning in the classroom and prepares every child for a bright future,” the statement said.

In addition to asking for “double-testing flexibility,” the guidance said that states that use the field tests may request “determination flexibility,” which allows them to hold their schools’ accountability designations—such as whether they are “priority” turnaround schools—steady for a year.

The department also made it clear that any state whose schools are participating in the consortia field tests—or in the field tests of consortia working on tests for students with significant cognitive disabilities—may request the testing and accountability-designation flexibility.

The department will post template applications on its website Tuesday for states that have already obtained waivers from key portion of the No Child Left Behind Act, and for states that have not yet done so.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

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

Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02
Standards Opinion After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger?
The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty