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New York Denied ESSA Waiver to Test Students With Disabilities Off Grade Level

New York's education plan required by the Every Student Succeeds Act passed federal muster with the U.S. Department of Education, but the state was not granted a waiver that would have allowed it to use tests for students with disabilities that do not match their grade level.

New York had asked the federal government to allow it to test students in grades 4-8 using tests that were no more than two levels below their actual grade. New York, along with all other states, already has the ability to test students with significant cognitive disabilities using tests aligned to "alternate achievement standards."

A waiver, the state argued, is necessary for students who aren't eligible for alternate assessments, but whose disabilities preclude their participation in regular grade-level tests. Those students might be able to meet state standards over time, the state said. Special education advocates, as well as the New York City education department, said that out-of-level testing would lower expectations for students with disabilities. 

In a Jan. 16 letter, the Education Department turned down the waiver. New York "has not demonstrated the requested waiver would advance student achievement, or how it will maintain or improve transparency in reporting to parents and the public on student achievement and school performance," said Jason Botel, the acting assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education. 

New York had made a similar request when it requested a waiver from No Child Left Behind Act requirements back in 2014. The state education—at the time, under the leadership of John B. King Jr., who would become the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2016—eventually withdrew its proposal.


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