AUSTIN – The U.S. Department of Education has advised the Texas
Education Agency that the state’s waiver request to address the issue of
multiple assessments for students taking Algebra I at the middle school level will
not be granted.
In spite of this federal decision, Commissioner of Education Michael
Williams is discouraging local school districts and charters from
double-testing middle school students taking Algebra I. However, the Commissioner
noted the decision about whether to administer multiple assessments is ultimately
a local one. Eighth grade mathematics testing in Texas is scheduled to begin on
“The waiver request was submitted because I do not believe that double
testing middle school students is instructionally appropriate nor a valid
evaluation of mathematics for Texas middle schools and high schools,” said
Commissioner Williams. “Given state and federal testing requirements, federal
denial of our amendment request, and the Texas Legislature’s decision to reduce
end-of-course testing to one high school mathematics assessment, I am
eliminating any perceived incentives a district might have had for double
testing students for accountability purposes.”
The Commissioner has formally notified all Texas school districts and
charters that for 2014 and 2015 state and federal accountability, if a student
takes the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) Algebra I end-of-course assessment and a
STAAR mathematics grade level assessment, only the results of the Algebra I
assessment will be included in the accountability calculations for the campus
and the district where the student tested. Although taken while in middle
school, the Algebra I EOC would count toward a student’s high school graduation
requirements under House Bill 5.
Commissioner Williams acknowledged his primary concern remains that
some school districts may make poor instructional decisions regarding
accelerated students. For example, to
avoid the dilemma of having these students’ scores attributed to a middle
school campus (instead of the high school campus), some districts might
reconsider offering Algebra I at the middle school level.
“Such a move would seriously disadvantage students who move quickly
through the mathematics curriculum in grades K-8 and would benefit from taking
advanced coursework in middle school,” said Commissioner Williams. “Should a
Texas district or charter elect to make such a move, this stalls students’
academic progress and provides them with one less opportunity to take an
advanced mathematics course or another relevant upper-division course in high
Given his concern, Commissioner Williams said the Texas Education
Agency will be analyzing course completion data submitted by school districts
to ensure that enrollment in Algebra I by middle school students does not
precipitously decline beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. Based on this annual analysis, some school
districts may be contacted to explain reductions in Algebra I enrollments by
middle school students.
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.
Late last year, Commissioner Williams advised the U.S. Department of
Education that Texas would be seeking to amend its conditional waiver of No
Child Left Behind (NCLB) provisions. In its communications with the agency, U.S.
Department of Education officials informed the Texas Education Agency that similar
waiver requests from other states have not been approved.