Texas Awaits No Child Left Behind Waiver

 In House Bill 866, signed last month by Governor Rick Perry, Texas hopes to allow high State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test takers to skip certain exams. While the bill has been signed by Gov. Perry, it cannot go into practice unless Texas receives a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

If the bill does become law, students who excel on state reading and math exams in the third and fifth grade would be able to skip the respective subject in fourth, sixth and seventh grades. Students will still be tested on math in the third and fifth grades; on reading in the third, fifth and eighth grades; on writing and science in the fifth and eighth grades; and on social studies in the eighth grade.

There are still a lot of questions surrounding the details of the bill. What are students who aren’t taking the tests doing during testing time? If these students aren’t receiving additional learning time, is it really worth it? How are these students going to factor in to the schools’ accountability reports? Texas Education Agency data does indicate that students who scored above a certain threshold on tests one year had a 97 percent likelihood of doing so the following year.

Last week Texas Commissioner of Education, Michael Williams, wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to clarify if specific federal provisions related to these student tests can and may be waived.

"The legislative authors of House Bill 866 drafted the bill with the intent to reduce the testing burden and costs for students, teachers, parents, and schools by reducing the amount of mandatory testing for students in grades 3-8 who are high performing," said Commissioner Williams in his letter to Secretary Duncan. "During the legislative session, the authors expressed their belief that this legislation would allow high-performing students to focus their time and energy on learning new material and not focusing every year on a test where there is a high likelihood that they would demonstrate success."