For the second time, the U.S. Department of Education is giving states with No Child Left Behind Act waivers more time to decide whether they want an extra year to implement a key piece of their teacher-evaluation systems.
First, the deadline to apply for a one-year waiver extension was Sept. 30. Then, it got moved to Oct. 31. And now, it's Nov. 22.
This waiver extension allows states to postpone using student growth on state tests as a factor in personnel decisions for up to one additional year—until the 2016-17 school year. Originally, the federal waiver guidelines required states do all of this by the 2015-16 school year.
Along with extended the deadline, the department has also released an important set of FAQs that clarify what these "waiver waivers" are, and are not.
As one example, federal officials make clear in one FAQ that if a state does not seek a waiver extension, an individual school district cannot do so on its own. So all districts will be bound by whatever their state decides.
In addition, the FAQs emphasize that this flexibility only pertains to federal waiver guidelines, and does not have any effect on teacher-evaluation timelines that may be in a state's law. What's more, any districts or schools receiving School Improvement Grant or Teacher Incentive Fund money are bound by the teacher-evaluation deadlines set by those grant programs, which will not be waived.
Federal officials also issue a stern warning to Race to the Top states through these FAQs. Although a Race to the Top state can apply for a waiver extension, it would also have to successfully amend its winning RTTT application—something federal officials seem especially reluctant to let states do. In part, federal officials write: "...a significant change that may significantly decrease or eliminate reform in any of the four reform areas of Race to the Top may jeopardize" a state's grant.