States operating under No Child Left Behind Act waivers can now request a delay until the 2015-16 school year in the deadline for using student test results in teacher evaluations, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Thursday.
Duncan made his announcement at the Jefferson Academy Middle School in Washington, where he spoke to a group of teachers and principals along with Kaya Henderson, the District of Columbia's schools chancellor.
In discussions with teachers, Duncan said he's repeatedly heard complaints that it doesn't make sense to hold teachers accountable during the 2014-15 transition year for new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards, especially when they've never seen the test before.
Though today's announcement makes it official, this is something the department has been building up to for a couple of months now.
Back in May, Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, told chief state school officers that the department recognized that some states need to alter their proposed evaluation systems and timelines. Since then, the department has been collecting feedback from states about what additional flexibility and support it might be able to provide, while still holding states accountable for following through with their commitments.
In June, the District of Columbia school system announced it won't use its "value added" test-score-based algorithm for measuring teacher effectiveness for the 2014-15 school year as it makes its transition to new tests aligned with the common core.
At the time, the U.S. Department of Education didn't cheer the move, but it also didn't say that the delay put the district's NCLB waiver in jeopardy.
Then the department began granting waiver extensions to states that have the authority to implement teacher-evaluation systems that meet the federal parameters, but need to make changes in a few "targeted areas," including timelines.
In June, New York was warned by the department that it could lose nearly $300 million of its Race to the Top funds if it followed through on a proposal to put off incorporating test scores from common-core-aligned exams in its teacher-evaluation system. The state also slightly changed the impact that assessments aligned to the common-core standards would have on certain teacher and principal evaluations.
But the department changed its tune a month later in a letter granting the Empire State a waiver extension. In addition to the extension, the department said New York is also on track, pending the implementation of the teacher and principal evaluations, for consideration of a longer waiver renewal period come spring of 2015
Waiver extensions for South Carolina and Delaware continued the trend of the department approving extensions for states that are still working with the Obama administration to hammer out changes to their teacher- and principal-evaluation systems.