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N.C. Becomes First Race to Top State to Win Teacher-Evaluation Delay


North Carolina is the first Race to the Top state to be allowed an extra year to tie teacher evaluations to personnel decisions—a measure of flexibility the U.S. Department of Education has offered to all waiver states but was reluctant to grant to winners of the Obama administration's signature education-improvement contest.

After all, North Carolina (and other Race to the Top states) made certain promises to win their big Race to the Top grants. And in its Feb. 12 approval letter, department officials note this one-year extension will, in fact, delay the teacher-evaluation part of the state's sweeping $400 million plan.

Three other states have been approved for this one-year teacher-evaluation delay: Mississippi, Nevada, and Kentucky. It's noteworthy that Kentucky won a smaller, third-round Race to the Top grant, but is not considered one of the 12 original grand-prize winners.

Maryland is the only other Race to the Top state to ask for the one-year delay. (That decision is still forthcoming.)

Also today, the Education Department approved seven more states for a waiver that allows them to forgo double testing their students with state exams and field tests from the assessment consortia during spring testing this school year. The waivers also, generally, allow states to forgo making accountability decisions on those tests for a year. The states approved this week are: Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington. And, importantly, Illinois! The state finally gets a waiver, although not the big one it wants.

They join four other states already approved: Connecticut, South Dakota, Nevada, and Vermont. And Montana was approved earlier. (Note I had incorrectly listed Nebraska here earlier.)

This is likely the bulk of the double-testing waivers, with one big decision still outstanding: California. The state with the largest student population is in a testing feud with the Education Department over its plans to not test every student in math and reading in grades 3-8 and in high school. The department threatened "significant enforcement action" in an October letter, which could cost the state $15 million in Title I administrative dollars.

A decision on that issue could come as early as next week.

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