January 30, 2014
The Honorable Carey M. Wright
Mississippi Department of Education
P. O. Box 771
Jackson, MS 39205
Dear Superintendent Wright:
I am writing in response to the Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE) 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 (ESEA), as amended. Specifically, MDE has requested on behalf of the selected schools a one-year waiver to field test in 2013–2014 alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards in mathematics and reading/language arts aligned to college- and career-ready standards developed by the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) assessment consortium for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in lieu of the State’s alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards in grades 3 through 8 and high school.
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, as amended, and their associated regulatory provisions:
- ESEA sections 1111(b)(1)(B) and 1111(b)(3)(C)(i), which require a State educational agency to apply the same academic achievement standards, and to use the same academic assessments, for all public school children in the State. MDE requested these waivers so that any individual student with the most significant cognitive disabilities within Mississippi will be permitted to take only one assessment in each content area in 2013–2014—either the current State alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards or the field test of DLM’s new alternate assessments.
- 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. MDE requested this waiver to permit MDE and its local educational agencies (LEAs) to refrain from producing or providing these reports for a student’s performance on a field test.
This waiver is granted to the MDE on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:
- MDE and its LEAs will ensure in 2013–2014 that all students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in the tested grades who do not take the field test in a particular subject will take the current State alternate assessment in that subject, as required by the ESEA.
- MDE and its LEAs will meet all reporting obligations with respect to reporting the achievement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take the current State alternate assessments.
- MDE has properly notified all LEAs and schools with students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who will participate in the field test of their participation.
- MDE will ensure that parents of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities have been notified of their child’s participation, including ensuring that notification includes a discussion of the implications of their child’s participation in the field test.
- In 2014–2015, MDE will administer new reading/language arts and mathematics alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards, as well as its State alternate assessments in science, to all students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in the grades required to be tested in accordance with the ESEA.
Please be aware that this waiver of Mississippi’s 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. Please know that this waiver does not apply to statutory or regulatory requirements governing the general assessments that MDE must administer in reading/language arts and mathematics in 2013–2014 under the ESEA. Moreover, this waiver also does not apply to statutory and regulatory requirements regarding science assessments under 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 Mississippi.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Staci Curry