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Legislative Update

Feds to offer waivers from ESEA accountability requirements but not from assessments

by | Feb 23, 2021 | Federal Issue, Legislative Update Blog | 0 comments

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) sent a letter to the chief state school officers “inviting states to request a waiver for the 2020-2021 school year of the accountability and school identification requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  A state receiving this waiver would not be required to implement and report the results of its accountability system, including calculating progress toward long-term goals and measurements of interim progress or indicators, or to annually meaningfully differentiate among its public schools using data from the 2020-2021 school year.”

The letter also addresses assessments and makes it clear that waivers from federal assessment requirements will not be issued by the Secretary of Education..

Stressing that assessments can provide important information concerning student learning growth and achievement levels, the letter recognizes the difficulty some schools and districts will have in conducting assessments during the pandemic and offers states guidance and suggestions for flexibility on conducting assessments.

Other sections of the letter address transparency and public reporting. 

One bit of good news is that Wisconsin’s request for a waiver from the 95 percent test participation requirement is likely to be granted. The letter states:

“This flexibility i.e., [for a state receiving an accountability and school identification waiver]
would explicitly include waiving the requirement that the Academic Achievement indicator
be adjusted to account for a participation rate below 95 percent.” 

The USED also issued a press release to accompany the letter to chief state school officers.  You can find the news release here.

Note: Wisconsin has separate state assessment and report card requirements that may make it difficult to employ the flexibility measures suggested by the USED.  The DPI is currently reviewing the USED guidance letter and is expected to release information for school leaders later this week.  

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