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Four More States Win Testing Waivers From U.S. Department of Education

Four more states have won waivers that allow them to replace all or part of their current standardized testing regimens this spring with field tests of the PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments.

As my colleague Michele McNeil reports for you over at the Politics K-12 blog, Connecticut, Mississippi, South Dakota and Vermont won the "double-testing" waivers that the U.S. Department of Education is offering to help states avoid having to administer both their own state tests and consortium tests to students in math and English/language arts this spring.

The waivers bring to five the number of "double-testing" waivers granted by the department. Montana won one in November.

Fifteen states have applied for those waivers, and none have yet been turned down.

New York won a different kind of testing waiver last month. It allows the state to avoid giving students both the Regents exams and the state Algebra 1 tests. It was possible because of a longstanding provision of the Elementary and Seconday Education Act that allows an education secretary to waive provisions of the law, but it wasn't part of the "double-testing" waiver program U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced last summer.

The "double-testing" waiver program was created in anticipation of the test overlaps that will arise this spring, when PARCC and Smarter Balanced field-test their assessments to work out the kinks before they are finalized and made ready for administration in 2015.

The rules of the new test-waiver program specify that if states wish to set aside some of their current tests to make room for the field tests, they have to make sure that each student still takes a full-length test in math or English/language arts, either by taking the state test in that subject or by taking a consortium field test.

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