February 12, 2014
The Honorable Mitchell D. Chester
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148-4906
Dear Commissioner Chester:
I am writing in response to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (ESE) request on behalf of selected schools to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements of Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA). Specifically, ESE requested on behalf of the selected schools a one-year waiver to allow the State to field test in 2013–2014 assessments in mathematics and reading/language arts aligned to college- and career-ready standards developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in lieu of the State’s assessments in grades 3 through 8 and high school. ESE also requested flexibility in making accountability determinations. This letter only pertains to ESE’s request for double testing flexibility submitted on November 22, 2013.
I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 9401 of the ESEA, a one-year waiver of the following statutory and regulatory requirements under Title I, Part A of the ESEA and their associated regulatory provisions:
- ESEA sections 1111(b)(1)(B) and 1111(b)(3)(C)(i), which require the State educational agency (SEA) to apply the same academic achievement standards, and to use the same academic assessments, for all public school children in the State. ESE requested these waivers so that any individual student within Massachusetts will be permitted to take only one assessment in each content area in 2013–2014 — either the current State assessment or the performance-based assessment component of the PARCC field test.
- ESEA section 1111(b)(3)(C)(xii), which requires the provision of individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports that include information regarding achievement on State assessments to parents, teachers, and principals as soon as is practically possible after an assessment is given. ESE requested this waiver to permit ESE and its local educational agencies (LEAs) to refrain from producing or providing these reports for a student’s performance on a field test.
- ESEA sections 1111(h)(1)(C)(ii) and 1111(h)(2)(B), which require an SEA and an LEA, respectively, to report on performance against annual measurable objectives (AMOs). ESE requested these waivers to permit ESE and its LEAs to refrain from reporting performance against AMOs for the subject(s) being field tested for any school or single-school LEA that participates in the field test of the new assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards and, as a result of this participation, has insufficient data from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) to render new accountability determinations.
This waiver is granted to ESE on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:
- ESE and its LEAs will ensure that all students in the tested grades who do not take a field test in a particular subject will take the MCAS in that subject, as required by the ESEA.
- ESE and its LEAs will report performance against AMOs for any school or single-school LEA for which ESE has sufficient data to generate a valid and reliable performance determination, regardless of the school’s or single-school LEA’s participation in the field test, based on the MCAS administered in the 2013–2014 school year. ESE and its LEAs will also report performance against AMOs for all LEAs (except single-school LEAs that participate in the field test and do not have sufficient data to generate a valid and reliable performance determination).
- ESE and its LEAs will meet all reporting obligations with respect to reporting the actual achievement of students who take the MCAS.
- ESE will properly notify all LEAs and schools that will participate in the field test of that participation.
- ESE will ensure that parents of students in each school participating in the field test will be notified of the school’s participation, including by ensuring that the notification to parents includes a discussion of the implications of the school’s participation in the field test and a notification of whether the parents’ child will participate in the field test.
- In 2014–2015, ESE will administer the new reading/language arts and mathematics assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards, as well as State science assessments, in the grades required to be tested in accordance with the ESEA.
Please be aware that this waiver of Massachusetts’ standards and assessment system under the ESEA is not a determination that the system complies with Federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This waiver also does not apply to statutory and regulatory requirements regarding science assessments under Title I, Part A of the ESEA.
I hope you find this flexibility helpful. I look forward to working with you and your staff as you implement this flexibility and as you continue working to improve education in Massachusetts.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Dr. Alan J. Ingram, Deputy Commissioner
Robert Bickerton, Senior Associate Commissioner