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Texas school districts seek testing waivers

There’s something almost poetic about this: In Texas, the state where the high-stakes standardized testing era began, a consortium of school districts is asking officials to grant them exemptions from both state and federal testing requirements.

Twenty-three members of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium have asked state officials for waivers from testing mandates, the Dallas Morning News reported, so they can have flexibility as they create a new accountability system.

The schools are seeking not only testing forgiveness, but permission to set their own school calendars and graduation requirements, among other things. (The consortium was created in 2011 to attract high-performing schools who could help design best practices that other schools and districts could follow.)

The paper reported that Michael Williams, the state’s new education commissioner, is holding off on making a decision on most of the flexibility requests because the issues are expected to be discussed in the next legislative session. He will ask the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from the testing mandates under No Child Left Behind.  The federal waivers were offered to states by the Obama administration after Congress failed to reauthorize the federal education law. States could win a waiver by agreeing to specific reforms favored by the administration. Texas was not expected to seek a waiver but Williams surprised people last year when he said he would.

The consortium also wants freedom from state testing mandates as well. 

Texas is the state that keeps on giving when it comes to resistance to high-stakes tests, which is ironic because it was under then-governor George W. Bush that the precursor to No Child Left Behind began. Bush took it national when he became president.

Last year about this time school districts started passing resolutions saying that high-stakes standardized tests were “strangling” public schools. Hundreds of districts passed them. Also Robert Scott, the man who was then state education commissioner,  now famously said publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be.

Now we have states actively asking to be exempt from state and federal testing mandates while they come up with accountability systems that make more sense. Good luck to ’em.



Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · January 5, 2013

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