The federal authorities have offered waivers of ESSA’s liability. Here’s where the states are to get them
When the US Department of Education said in February that states could get waivers of parts of the federal education law, much of the attention was focused on the agency’s statement according to which it would not grant general exemptions. from standardized tests.
What has received much less attention is the ministry’s decision to process requests for exemptions from the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act governing the accountability of schools and districts for the 2020-2021 school year.
The position of the Ministry of Education on standardized tests turned out to be a bit more complex than many might have imagined. But in the meantime, the majority of states have requested and received liability waivers to account for the unprecedented disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic at K-12.
Generally speaking, these exemptions mean a relaxation of the requirements for state and local authorities to identify and develop interventions for certain underperforming schools, such as those with relatively low graduation rates. But not all states have received them.
As of this week, the website of the Ministry of Education indicates that 41 states, the Bureau of Indian Education, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico received exemptions using a template published by the Ministry of Education at the beginning of March to be relieved of certain mandates of responsibility.
Additionally, Louisiana and Tennessee said they submitted addenda that include changes to their ESSA accountability plans. Both states said they had not received a response from the federal government regarding the proposed changes.
In a handful of cases, however, states have said they are still reflecting or do not yet have the flexibility they seek.
The Arkansas Department of Education said it has yet to request a waiver, although the state is still considering it. “Arkansas is in consultation with the US Department of Education and will use the data to make final decisions regarding a waiver, addendum and / or revisions,” wrote Kimberly Mundell, a spokesperson for the department, in a statement. E-mail.
The New Hampshire Department of Education said it decided to wait to determine “what was needed” after its testing window ended on June 18, instead of “preemptively” requesting a waiver. The state also said it would “probably” require a waiver.
Kansas Department of Education spokeswoman Denise Kahler said the state submitted a waiver request on June 15. A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Education, Victor Morente, said he submitted a waiver request on June 4. And Idaho will submit its waiver. request in the near future, according to Mary McFarland of the state’s education department.
Department of Education approved Wyoming addendum to its accountability plan on June 9. The Iowa Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment on the state’s waiver status.
States follow their own path when it comes to accountability
States use their own accountability systems separate from the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates to assess schools and make resource decisions.
In a February 1 letter discussing Louisiana’s approach for the 2020-21 school year – sent ahead of the Biden administration’s decisions regarding waivers of accountability and review – the Superintendent of Education State, Cade Brumley, said the state had waived its usual requirements for how student assessment data should inform teacher assessments.
Brumley also noted that state lawmakers have taken steps to ensure that 2020-2021 school performance data “is not unfairly attributed to schools and school systems under extraordinary circumstances.”
Louisiana Addendum to its ESSA Accountability Plansays it will not label schools as requiring comprehensive intervention this fall based on the typical schedule, unless the state “receives notification from the principal of that school that they have chosen to be identified as [needing it]. “
Louisiana, however, does not seek the same flexibility as other states. For example, his proposed changes do not appear to include a request for delay in measuring progress towards the long-term academic goals required by ESSA.
Tennessee submitted proposed changes to its ESSA plan on June 9. Tennessee Department of Education noted similar relief state accountability requirements that voluntary state lawmakers granted earlier this year.
School planning process may be delayed
Flexibility at the state level, separate from federal mandates, is important for schools. But what are the practical implications for states that do not yet have a federal liability waiver?
At the very least, states awaiting a decision from the federal government, or still deciding to seek flexibility, push back the process by which schools identified as in need of intervention determine the strategies and resources they will need, said Terra Wallin, associate director for P-12 accountability at the Education Trust.
“The ability to implement interventions in a meaningful way becomes more and more difficult as you wait to do it,” Wallin said.
In general, there is serious concern about the quality of data that schools, districts, and states typically use for federal accountability purposes. As a result, “most states have already made a decision that there will be elements in the data where they don’t feel comfortable using it for liability” and have therefore sought coverage, Wallin said. .
Yet states are not off the hook when it comes to publicly reporting certain data, such as information on chronic absenteeism, as of the 2020-21 school year. Wallin also said she would monitor whether, in the coming months, states that do not receive a waiver of liability from Washington nonetheless act as if they obtained them, and how federal officials would respond if that happened.
Additionally, she said it is worth watching states to see if they seek narrower exemptions from accountability mandates in the future as they attempt to revert to typical annual ESSA requirements or change their. ESSA shots on the road.