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New York State's Request for Waiver on Testing Rejected by Education Department

New York cannot give tests to students with disabilities that do not match their grade level, the U.S. Department of Education has told the state.

The state had asked for permission to give certain special education students tests that match their instructional level, rather than their grade. The request also asked that English-learners who had been in the country for less than two years be exempted from the state's reading and language arts tests. 

The testing flexibility had originally been a part of New York's request for a waiver from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. The state then dropped the proposal from its waiver and introduced it as a separate request.

In a June 5 letter, then-Assistant Education Secretary Deborah S. Delisle declined to grant the flexibility. The Education Department's rules that students be tested on grade-level content "ensure that teachers and parents of all students, including [English-learners] and students with disabilities, have information on their students' proficiency and progress in reading/language arts and mathematics."

The department had already signaled that it would take a dim view of out-of-level testing. In a 2014 phone interview with reporters, Delisle took a question on New York's proposal. She said the department had not yet seen the plan, but that the Education Department had deliberately moved away from allowing students to be assessed on modified standards.

"We have heard from many support groups around special education students that they want their children to have access to high-quality standards, and not have their education diminished in some regard by teaching to lower standards," she said. 

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