Washington state schools chief Randy Dorn wants to "hit a pause button" on test scores this year, to keep them from counting against schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Washington schools chief Randy Dorn is asking the U.S. Department of Education to “hit a pause button” on test scores this year as schools switch to new, computer-based Common Core exams.
Under a waiver Dorn requested March 31, schools would still report student scores on the new tests, called Smarter Balanced, which are replacing Washington’s old statewide exams in reading and math.
The waiver, however, would protect schools and districts from being punished any more than they currently are for students’ low scores on the exams, which are supposed to be harder than Washington’s old tests.
Dorn is asking that schools be held harmless for a year, giving districts time to adjust to the new tests, said Gil Mendoza, deputy superintendent in Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
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“(The test) is to a higher standard, and it’s brand new,” Mendoza said.
This waiver is different from the one Washington used to have under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Washington lost that waiver in 2014 for refusing to insist that student test scores on state tests play a role in teacher evaluations.
If granted, this new waiver would essentially allow schools to tread water for a year, continuing whatever interventions the feds prescribed based on last year’s scores.
In comments attached to a letter Dorn sent to the U.S. Department of Education, some Washington school district administrators agreed such a waiver was a good idea. A few expressed frustration at what they called the “ineffective” system of consequences that led to Washington losing control over $40 million in federal money.
“Given the new standards and assessments, I don’t know how we could defend professionally using this year’s test data to (indicate) progress or lack of progress,” wrote Raymond School District Superintendent Stephen Holland.
To complicate things further, the No Child law may be changing. Under a proposed rewrite of the law from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, states — not the federal government — would set their own agendas for how to intervene in struggling schools.