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In NCLB Waiver Dispute, Texas Tells Feds: Don't Mess With Our Principles

Cross-posted from the Politics K-12 blog

by Alyson Klein

The U.S. Education Department told Texas that its teacher evaluation system isn't coming close to cutting the mustard when it comes to what's expected for states with waivers from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Texas' response? Thanks for letting us know. And we can talk about it. But we're sticking to our principles.

"Well before this waiver, [Texas'] work to develop new teacher and principal evaluation and support systems was under way with the clear intent of offering it to districts as a resource to improve instruction," said Texas' Commissioner, Michael Williams, in a statement. "I have always made it clear to federal officials that as part of the waiver process [Texas] could not exceed its current authority nor would we do anything to erode our state's strong commitment to local control in public education. My position on this front has not, and will not, change."

Not exactly, "Don't Mess With Texas." But still, not very conciliatory.

And the department has a long, long list of issues with Texas' waiver, included in a letter sent to the state from Deb Delisle, the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education at the department. In fact, the Lone Star State has more than a dozen issue areas to address.

For instance, the feds want Texas to better explain how evaluations will inform personnel decisions (like hiring and firing), how the state plans to incorporate student growth into evaluations for subjects that aren't tested (for instance, physical education), and how the state is ensuring its districts are adhering to the state's teacher evaluation plans. And Delisle wants clarification on how the state's evaluation system captures student growth on state scores.

But interestingly, Delisle doesn't say anything in her letter about putting Texas on high risk status, nor is there any threat to revoke the waiver.

Instead, Texas will need to address all of these issues by the department's waiver renewal deadline of March 31. Williams said he'll be meeting with stakeholders in the state to try to work through the department's queries.

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