AUSTIN - Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has advised the U.S. Department of Education that the State of Texas is seeking to amend its conditional waiver of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) provisions. If granted, the requested amendment would specifically address the issue of multiple assessments for Texas students taking Algebra I at the middle school level.
Current federal accountability requirements call for students to have a mathematics score every year in grades 3-8, as well as a mathematics score in high school. The federal government requires states that offer only one mathematics assessment at the high school level, which can also be taken by middle school students, to ensure there is a separate mathematics result that can be attributed to a high school.
Based on this federal requirement coupled with the passage of House Bill 5, which establishes the Algebra I end-of-course (EOC) as the sole high school level mathematics assessment, school districts with students taking Algebra I in middle school now face the choice of administering multiple assessments to those students or facing potential federal accountability consequences.
"The prospect of double-testing middle school students enrolled in Algebra I is fundamentally unfair to students and schools," said Commissioner Williams. "I know we can reach a workable solution to this issue, one that continues to encourage the motivated academic achievement of our students in Texas middle schools."
In a Nov. 6th letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Commissioner Williams asked that Texas be allowed to use the Algebra I EOC test as the single subject area assessment in middle school. A waiver amendment is necessary to accommodate the lack of high school mathematics assessment results for middle school students who have appropriately completed their high school graduation requirements in mathematics prior to entering high school.
Without federal approval, Texas middle school students (primarily those in the 8th grade) taking Algebra I will have to take a grade-level assessment to meet federal requirements as well as the state's Algebra I EOC to meet high school graduation requirements. Such double testing would begin this school year.
In his letter, Commissioner Williams expressed potential unintended consequences related to double testing. Those concerns included impeding academic progress of students who might be discouraged from taking Algebra I in middle school and attributing test scores to schools that had no control over student instruction.
The request is for an amendment to the State's conditional waiver from the federal government for specific provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. That conditional waiver was granted by the U.S. Department of Education in September.
There is no anticipated time frame for a response from the federal government on the state's request. The NCLB waiver previously granted to Texas and Commissioner Williams' letter to letter to Secretary Duncan requesting an amendment are available for viewing on the Texas Education Agency website.