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Regulators say 'no' to New York's bid for out-of-level testing

There will not be easier testing for New York children in grades 4-8. Several weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education rejected a request by the New York Education Department that would have allowed some students with disabilities to advance if they passed tests showing mastery of curriculum that was up to two levels below their actual grades.

We wrote about this idea in a post in November. We noted at the time that state officials made the waiver request over the objections of school leaders in New York City and special education advocates. Their main complaint was that the lowered expectations in such out-of-level testing would do the students more harm than good, representing an erosion of rights guaranteed by law.

Considering the tenor of comments that have flowed from the Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the first year of the administration there was some concern that the waiver might be granted. However, it didn't happen.

In making its original request, the state said it needed the waiver to cover students who don't qualify for existing alternate assessment programs but have impairments that prevent them from succeeding on tests at their grade levels. The state suggested the students might eventually meet expected standards if given more time.

However, an Education Department letter dated Jan. 16 said the law requires testing at grade level except when students have significant cognitive disabilities that qualify them for assessment under alternate achievement standards. Further, it said New York's plan failed to explain how a waiver would meet legal requirements for advancing student achievement and improving transparency in public reporting about student and school performance.

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