January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

U.S. Department of Education Denies 2nd Waiver Request – CA Officials Balk at Rejection and Affirms Commitment to Science Education

Posted: Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

Updated December 15, 2016

On Tuesday, December 13, 2016 California received a response to its revised science testing waiver application. It was not the one California had hoped for. In its second attempt to obtain a double-testing waiver that would allow California to discontinue the administration of the CST and the suspension from calculating and reporting of student test scores for two years, California clearly outlined the rationale to support the waiver request. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) continued to cite the need to publish science test scores for students in the name of transparency and monitoring student progress. CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl expressed disappointment in the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to deny the waiver request.

“As a 26-year veteran educating 8th graders in California, I am perplexed by the rationale provided by the DOE to continue outdated testing of outdated standards to students who live in a world that has evolved significantly in the last 18 years,” Hegdahl said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst released a joint statement in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of a waiver allowing California to suspend an outdated science assessment and instead give a modernized science test:

“We are deeply disappointed by the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of our waiver request. We reject their insistence that we double-test. We believe the denial of this request harms our students, who will be forced to study science based on state standards adopted in 1998 that are outmoded and not designed for the 21st century.” California educators know better than people in Washington, D.C., how best to serve our students. We have no time to waste when it comes to improving science education. California moves forward, not backward.”

Providing some direction to the science education community and California public school teachers, Superintendent Torlakson and State Board President Kirst reaffirmed the state’s commitment to deliver a pilot science assessment this spring (testing window is scheduled to open March 20, 2017): “California plans to move full-speed ahead implementing our new, computer-adaptive science assessment pilot in 2017 based on our new Next Generation Science Standards. The standards, our new online test, and our new science curriculum framework, which guides teachers, are all part of an exciting renaissance in science education in California designed to equip our students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st-century economy and college.”

CDE’s waiver request was supported by California Science Teachers Association, Children Now, The Education Trust-West, the National Science Teachers Association, and other supporters of science and STEM education in California.

So What Happens Next?

According to the denial letter from the DOE, California has until December 20, 2016, to request a hearing to appeal the decision. Reading the articles listed below, you get the sense that California officials are considering a variety of options, including waiting for the new Trump Administration.

CSTA will follow this issue closely and will keep members updated on any new progress. Stay tuned to us on Twitter (@cascience) and our Facebook Page for the most current updates.

For additional coverage of this issue see:

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

2 Responses

  1. Where California goes, so goes the nation. It has always been so. Adapt or become extinct; another way you can put it. Deeply disappointed in the DOE’s decision to stay in the 20th century and not let science leaders and innovators direct and dictate the standards towards which we are all clearly heading. Those in Washington, D.C. have obviously forgotten some basic science concepts. If you over stimulate the organism, it becomes tired, unresponsive, and shuts down. Let’s test for success not excess!

  2. Not sure why we follow the DOE’s edicts. They don’t give us money unless we are under performing schools or economically challenged. So why, as a whole, do we so eagerly do what they say?????? They don’t pay the budget, they don’t financially support California education.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.