The U.S. Department of Education will not grant a waiver for specific provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (commonly known as NCLB) as it relates to House Bill 866, according to a Sept. 9, 2013, TEA press release. This means that the reduced testing in grades 3-8 that HB 866, a law passed by the 2013 Texas Legislature, would have permitted cannot be implemented.
 
The federal waiver was needed because current federal law requires testing for math and reading for all students in grades 3 through 8. Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah S. Delisle provided the following rationale in a Sept. 6 letter to Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams:

“Annual assessment of all students in grades 3 through 8 is critical to holding schools and LEAs [local education agencies] accountable for improving the achievement of all students and to providing transparency on LEA, school, and student performance to families, communities, and other stakeholders. Therefore, should the TEA submit such a request, I would decline to exercise my authority to grant a waiver of the provisions you have identified.”

In July, Commissioner Williams submitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that sought clarification from USDE whether specific federal provisions related to student tests might be waived. The Texas legislators who authored HB 866 recognized a federal waiver was necessary before provisions of the legislation could be put into effect.
 
In her letter to Williams, Assistant Secretary Delisle also wrote that HB 866 provisions could also impact the state’s current request for a general NCLB waiver. TEA submitted its original application in February, updated its submission in August and awaits a final decision. (See also Troublesome teacher evaluation provisions included in Texas NCLB waiver request.)

Although the response by USDE poses a temporary setback for proponents of reducing testing in grades 3-8, including TCTA, given the amount of interest displayed by the Texas legislature in further reducing testing, TCTA will continue to advocate for legislative action next session to at least scale back testing to the minimum required by the federal NCLB/ESEA.