Seeing that No Child Left Behind doesn’t fit with the Administration’s policies, the Department of Education has extended blanket waivers to states, exempting them from conditions of the law.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Thursday that states could delay the use of test results in teacher-performance ratings by another year, an acknowledgment, in effect, of the enormous pressures mounting on the nation’s teachers because of new academic standards and more rigorous standardized testing.
Sounding like some of his fiercest critics, Mr. Duncan wrote in a blog post, “I believe testing issues are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and said that teachers needed time to adapt to new standards and tests that emphasize more than simply filling in bubbled answers to multiple-choice questions.
Over the past four years, close to 40 states have adopted laws that tie teacher evaluations in part to the performance of their students on standardized tests. Many districts have said they will use these performance reviews to decide how teachers are granted tenure, promoted or fired. These laws were adopted in response to conditions set by the Department of Education in the waivers it granted from the No Child Left Behind law that governs what states must do to receive federal education dollars. The test-based teacher evaluations were also included as conditions of Race to the Top grants that have been given by the Obama administration.
Last year Mr. Duncan said states could delay using teacher evaluations to make high-stakes personnel decisions. Thursday’s announcement allows states to delay using test results at all in performance reviews.
And, of course, this new law by the Administration was announced in a blog post by the Secretary of the Education (the Education Blog is much nicer than the HHS blog)!
That’s why we will be taking action in the coming weeks that give states more flexibility in key areas that teachers have said are causing worry.
States will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation during this transition. As we always have, we’ll work with them in a spirit of flexibility to develop a plan that works, but typically I’d expect this to mean that states that request this delay will push back by one year (to 2015-16) the time when student growth measures based on new state assessments become part of their evaluation systems – and we will work with states seeking other areas of flexibility as well. We want to make sure that they are still sharing growth data with their teachers, and still moving forward on the other critical pieces of evaluation systems that provide useful feedback to educators.
I haven’t found the regulation yet, but it doesn’t matter, because there is a blog post. Because won’t someone please think of the children!