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The U.S. Department of Education today issued a much-anticipated decision concerning the Texas Education Agency’s request for a waiver of certain requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  The Commissioner of Education sent out the following message concerning the decision:

Sept. 9, 2013


Feds: No waiver on HB 866


AUSTIN – The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has notified the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that it will not grant a waiver for specific provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) as it relates to House Bill 866 (HB 866).


Had a waiver been secured from the federal government, potential changes under HB 866 would have included math assessments for certain students in grades 3, 5 and 8; and reading in grades 3, 5 and 8. High-performing students would have been exempt from taking these assessments in grades 4, 6, and 7. Current federal law requires testing for math and reading for all students in grades 3 through 8.


“Annual assessment of all students in grades 3 through 8 is critical to holding schools and LEAs [local education agencies] accountable for improving the achievement of all students and to providing transparency on LEA, school, and student performance to families, communities, and other stakeholders,” wrote Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah S. Delisle in a Sept. 6th letter to Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Therefore, should the TEA submit such a request, I would decline to exercise my authority to grant a waiver of the provisions you have identified.”


In July, Commissioner Williams submitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan seeking clarification from USDE whether specific federal provisions related to student tests might be waived. The authors of HB 866 (passed by the 83rdTexas Legislature) recognized a federal waiver was necessary before provisions of the legislation could be put into effect.


In her letter to Commissioner Williams, Assistant Secretary Delisle went on to say that HB 866 provisions could also impact the state’s current request for a general NCLB waiver. TEA submitted its original application in February, updated its submission in August and awaits a final decision.


“As has been granted in other states, Texas school districts also deserve some relief from NCLB,” said Commissioner Williams. “I remain optimistic that after months of discussion with the U.S. Department of Education, our districts will be granted greater flexibility for some NCLB provisions.”


The general NCLB waiver request for the State of Texas is available for viewing on the TEA website.

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