Test-based Staff Decisions Can be Put off a Year, Duncan Says

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced this week that some states that have adopted the Common Core Standards would have a year's grace before they're required to use student achievement metrics in teacher assessment systems, Lyndsey Layton writes in the Washington Post.

The exemption is not automatic, and the Department of Education will make a decision on whether to grant an exception on a case-by-case basis. The states will also be allowed to use this year as a pilot of any standardized testing system – meaning poor performance will not count against them when it comes to federal education funding – but they will still be required to enact reforms in their poorest-performing schools.

According to Layton, the move will allow states to avoid giving both new CCS-based exams and the old exams to their students in one year.

Duncan is offering that leeway to 37 states and the District, which have received waivers from the Obama administration on most aspects of No Child Left Behind, the main federal education law.

Teachers groups said the decision was prudent in the face of new national standards that have barely made their way into classrooms, while Republican legislators and reformers slammed it as a delay in accountability.

In a call with reporters, Duncan said the additional time is not a delay.

Duncan said that the decision was taken after feedback was received from lawmakers, education advocates and teachers in a number of states who expressed concern about being able to fully transition to Common Core and CC-based assessment in one year. Still, Duncan stressed that the freeze will not actually slow down implementation, in light of the fact that many schools around the country are in desperate need of reform.

The grace period means states that have been granted a waiver from some of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind – 37 in total, plus the District of Columbia – will not lose it if they don't use objective student achievement data to make decisions on teacher employment, something that was almost universally a condition for a successful waiver application.

Some education policy groups expressed disappointment. Daria Hall, K-12 policy director at the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for racial minority students and low-income children, said the evaluations would be introduced without any teeth. "So you're saying set up a system that tells us we have teachers who aren't up to it, but don't do anything about it for another year," she said.

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