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Fifteen States Seek Double-Testing Waiver From U.S. Education Department

While we were away from the office on an extended holiday last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the states who are seeking its "double testing flexibility" waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act (which I prefer to call "flexi-test"). Since some of you follow the twists and turns of assessment policy with the intense focus of a squirrel searching for late-autumn nuts, I wanted to make sure I called your attention to this, even if it is later rather than sooner.

As my colleague Michele McNeil reported on the Politics K12 blog, 15 states are seeking the flexi-test waiver. They're California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. (Michele's got details, also, on which states applied for the waiver that allows them to take more time linking student test scores to teacher evaluations.)

Until the department announced the names of the 15 state, we had known about only two: Montana, whose letter of application we reported to you in October—and who got word last month that it won the waiver—and California, which got into a major kerfuffle with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about its plan. The Golden State has now revised its plan to fall more in line with what the department wants. Whether that will be enough to win it a waiver remains to be seen.

The flexi-test waiver, you may recall, allows states to dump some or all of their current testing programs in math and English/language arts to allow more time for the field tests being given this spring by PARCC and Smarter Balanced, the two common-assessment consortia.

The point here is to avoid "double-testing" students by making all of them take both the field tests and their states' regular tests. Secretary Duncan laid out guidelines that specify that any state hoping for a waiver must have a plan in which each student in tested grades will take either their state's regular test, or a consortium field test, in both math and English/language arts.

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