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Kansas Gets Waiver to Use Common-Core Alternate Assessments

Cross-posted from Politics K-12

Kansas has gotten the go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Education to test-run alternate assessments for all of its students with severe disabilities, using tests developed by Dynamic Learning Maps. DLM is one of two consortia working on tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards for kids with severe cognitive disabilities; the other is the National Center and State Collaborative. (I explored the field test plans of these consortia in a recent story.)  

As anyone who has this map on their office wall knows, Kansas was originally part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium—one of two groups that got federal grants to develop tests aligned to the common core standards. Those exams are slated to debut in the 2014-15 school year and are being piloted in states this year.

But, in December, Kansas bowed out of SBAC, in favor of using common-core aligned tests developed by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas. It stuck with DLM, however. Incidentally, the DLM tests are also being developed at the University of Kansas, so it would have been pretty strange for the state to drop them.

Back when it was still with Smarter Balanced, Kansas was one of fifteen states that applied for a so-called "double-testing" waiver, which allowed states to substitute field tests of assessments aligned to the common core in place of regular state exams for some or all students. But the state's request was essentially rendered moot when it decided to ditch SBAC, Denise Kahler, a spokeswoman for the Kansas department said. For those keeping score at home, one other state—Oklahoma—asked for a double-testing waiver, and then quit its consortium. (The Sooner State was part of the other consortium, PARCC.)

Because it was no longer part of a consortium, the Education Department required Kansas to submit a special waiver application, just to use the DLM tests, said Brad Neuenswander, the state's deputy commissioner. The department didn't think the original double-testing waiver should count if the state was only to be piloting DLM, he said.

"It was just us making sure our waiver was clear and specific," Neuenswander said.

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