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December 22, 2021
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Submits Federal Waiver to USDE

Waiver Would Address Equity Issues by Allowing Flexibility in Identification Requirements and School Improvement Funding in 2021-22

The New York State Education Department submitted a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to address equity issues in the state’s accountability system because of the pandemic, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced today. The waiver request would allow flexibility in accountability identification requirements and Title I School Improvement Grant funds.

“We have heard from educators, parents, and stakeholders that we simply cannot restart the accountability system without considering the ever-changing conditions schools and communities continue to experience because of the pandemic,”  said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. “We hope USDE will agree that a fair and equitable approach to re-starting the accountability system is in the best interest of students, schools, and districts.”

“We cannot expect that data affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can be accurately or fairly used for measuring growth or assigning accountability levels,” said Commissioner Rosa. “Given the complexity of the accountability system, and the extent of the disruption, you cannot just flip a switch and expect to re-start the process. We owe it to our students, educators, and families to have a thoughtful and deliberate transition to resuming the state’s accountability system.”

The Department’s waiver proposes to 1) eliminate requirements to identify schools for comprehensive and targeted support and improvement in fall 2022 based on 2021-22 school year results, and 2) use Title I School Improvement funds to support Good Standing schools that were identified as at risk of becoming identified as a Targeted Support and Improvement School before the pandemic. The full text of the submitted waiver request is posted on the Department’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) webpage.

Public Comment

As required by ESSA, on December 1, the Department posted the draft text of the waiver on its website for public comment. At the close of the public comment period on December 15, the Department had received more than 3,900 public comments submitted by parents, teachers, and school staff members. The public comments showed overwhelming support of the Department’s proposed waiver. 

Next Steps

By law, the Secretary of Education has 120 days to act upon the waiver requests, but the Department is hopeful for an expedited response as the USDE is aware of the time-sensitive nature of these requests. If the waiver requests are approved by the USDE, the Department will propose amendments to Commissioner’s Regulations to the Board of Regents to implement the waiver.