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January 25, 2021
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JP O'Hare

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Proposed Federal Waivers for State Assessments and Accountability Requirements Now Available for Public Comment

Waivers Would Allow the State to Forego Testing Students in 2020-21

Comments Accepted Through February 5

Two draft federal waiver requests related to state assessment and accountability requirements are now available for public comment, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced today. The waiver requests address the unique circumstances caused by the ongoing pandemic that have resulted in many students receiving some or all of their instruction remotely.  The Department is accepting comments through February 5 and stakeholders are encouraged to fill out a brief companion survey. The full text of each proposed waiver is posted on NYSED’s ESSA webpage.

“Throughout the pandemic the Board’s priority has been the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of the children and adults in our schools,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr.  “In light of the ongoing pandemic, we have determined that the Spring 2021 state assessments cannot be safely, equitably and fairly administered to students in schools across the state and, therefore, are seeking these waivers.”

“Given the varying circumstance in each school district, the only fair and appropriate decision at this time is to seek waivers to forego testing and accountability requirements for the 2020-21 school year,” said Interim Commissioner Rosa. “As part of this process we are seeking input from local stakeholders to ensure that our requests capture the experiences of our partners across the state and we look forward to reviewing their comments.”

The first waiver request seeks to waive state testing requirements at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  This waiver would also allow the Department to administer the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSELSAT) only to those English Language Learners who are able to attend school in person at least some days of the week.

The Department’s second waiver request seeks to eliminate the requirement to assign a Level 1 to 4 to each accountability subgroup for each indicator for which a school or district is accountable or identify schools for improvement in fall 2021 based on 2020-21 school year results. Separate from the waiver, NYSED will seek an amendment to New York’s approved ESSA plan that would allow certain schools that are currently identified for improvement but made progress based on 2018-19 school year results to petition for removal from improvement status based on modified 2020-21 school year exit criteria.

Upon approval of these waivers by USDE, NYSED will seek an additional waiver from certain ESSA reporting requirements pertaining to assessments and accountability.

Comments on the draft waivers may be emailed to with “ESSA Comments from (sender/organization name)” in the subject line. Comments will be accepted through February 5, 2021. In addition, stakeholders are encouraged to fill out a brief survey regarding the 2020-21 school year student assessment and school accountability processes.

Next Steps

In February, NYSED will present a summary of the public comments received on the two draft waiver requests to the Board of Regents.  If the waivers are approved by the USDE, the Department will propose to the Board of Regents that it adopt such amendments to Commissioner’s Regulations to implement the waivers.