It’s starting to look like Tommy James and the Shondells might be the new theme music over at the Department of Education. Federal elementary and secondary education policy, already a barely cohesive mess because of the Administration’s waiver program, just got even more complicated. Yesterday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that – if they apply for a waiver from their existing waiver – states can delay consequences for their new teacher evaluation systems until the 2016-2017 school year. He also announced a sensible step to avoid double-testing of students during the transition from existing assessments to new ones as part of Common Core implementation. Although critics are understandably jumping all over them for the waiver waivers, the Administration’s plan is not entirely indefensible because it’s aimed at a real issue. But it is quite problematic. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
– This is a big political win for AFT President Randi Weingarten. It’s not her moratorium per se but it’s awfully close and does hit the pause button on the issue that matters most to her members. And while state chiefs like Tony Bennett in Florida are already saying they won’t apply for a waiver waiver, many chiefs are going to face a lot of political pressure to do so. As you might expect there was a lot of behind the scenes back and forth on this and some state leaders worried this step would pull the rug out from under them. The Department is hoping that the September 30 deadline for applying for a waiver wavier will help stem the tide but the pressure will be intense.