January 30, 2014
The Honorable Rebecca Holcombe
Secretary of Education
State of Vermont, Agency of Education
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620
Dear Secretary Holcombe:
I am writing in response to the Vermont Agency of Education’s (VAE’s) request on behalf of selected schools to waiver to allow the district to field test in 2013–2014 assessments in mathematics and reading/language arts aligned to college- and career-ready standards developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and alternate assessments for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities developed by Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), in lieu of the State’s assessments in grades 3 through 8 and high school. VAE also requested flexibility in making accountability determinations.
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 (SEA) to apply the same academic achievement standards, and to use the same academic assessments, for all public school children in the State. VAE requested these waivers so that any individual student within Vermont will be permitted to take only one assessment in each content area in 2013–2014 — either the current State assessment or the full form of the field test of the new assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards.
- 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. VAE requested this waiver to permit VAE 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 LEA to report on performance against annual measurable objectives (AMOs). VAE requested these waivers to permit VAE and its LEAs to refrain from reporting performance against AMOs for any school, or single-school LEA that participates in the field test of the new assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards.
- ESEA sections 1116(a)(1)(A) and 1116(c)(1)(A), which require an LEA and an SEA, respectively, to use the State’s academic assessments and other academic indicators to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for schools and LEAs. VAE requested this waiver to permit an LEA within Vermont that has one or more schools participating in the field test to refrain from making AYP determinations for each of those schools and to permit VAE to refrain from making AYP determinations for a single-school LEA participating in the field test.
This waiver is granted to the VAE on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:
- The VAE 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 current State assessment in that subject, as required by the ESEA.
- The VAE and its LEAs will make AYP determinations for all schools that do not participate in the field test and for all LEAs except single-school LEAs that participate in the field test based on current State assessments administered in 2013-2014 school year.
- The VAE and its LEAs will report performance against AMOs for a subject that is not being field tested in a school that participates in the field test, for all schools that do not participate in the field test, and for all LEAs (except single-school LEAs that participate in the field test of a tested subject)
- The VAE and its LEAs will meet all reporting obligations with respect to reporting the actual achievement of students who take the current State assessments.
- The VAE has properly notified all LEAs and schools that will participate in the field test of that participation.
- The VAE has ensured that parents of students in each school participating in the field test have been 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’ individual child will participate in the field test.
- In 2014–2015, the VAE will administer the new reading/language arts and mathematics assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards, as well as its State science assessments, to all students in the grades required to be tested in accordance with the ESEA.
- The VAE will resume making AYP determinations for all schools and all single-school LEAs based on assessments administered in the 2014–2015 school year.
Please be aware that this waiver of Vermont’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. 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 Vermont.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Michael Hock