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Notice of Intent to Apply for a Wavier Extension for the Federal Requirement Related to Middle School Students in Advanced Mathematics Coursework Taking Grade-Based Assessments

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) is committed to ensuring that when a student is administered a required statewide assessment, it matches the instruction the student has received in the classroom to the greatest extent possible. In addition, OSSE believes that all students should have equitable access to higher-level mathematics instruction and assessments when they are ready.

Currently, some students in Grade 7 are taking mathematics courses that are more advanced than what is assessed on the Grade 7 Mathematics Assessment, For example, a number of students in Grade 7 take Algebra I.

To continue its current practice, OSSE is seeking a waiver of Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(i)(I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which requires that every student in Grade 7 take the state administered Grade 7 Mathematics Assessment. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides an exception to this requirement for higher-level math for students in Grade 8. This waiver, if accepted, would allow the same exception for Grade 7.

Section 1111(b)(2)(C) of the ESEA allows students in Grade 8 that take an advanced mathematics course, for example, Algebra I, Algebra II, or Geometry, to take the annual assessment in that course instead of the Grade 8 Mathematics Assessment. However, certain conditions must be met. First, the student’s test score must count in assessment results for accountability. Second, the student must take a higher-level math assessment once in high school as required under federal law.

The District of Columbia received a waiver from the US Department of Education for this federal requirement so students in Grade 7 could access higher-level mathematics courses in middle school and not have to sit for the Grade 7 Mathematics Assessment. This waiver was in place for the 2018-19 school year through the 2020-21 school year. To maintain current practice, OSSE intends to seek a waiver extension for the 2021-22 school year through the 2023-24 school year.

Since this is current practice, OSSE engaged LEAs in the development and review of this proposed waiver policy. OSSE’s Office of Assessment presented the participation policy and exception for middle school participation in advanced mathematics end-of-course assessments publicly at cross-sector stakeholder meetings on June 17, 2021, Aug. 12, 2021, and Oct. 14, 2021. In early October 2021, OSSE communicated its “Statewide Assessments Participation and Performance Policy for the 2021-22 School Year.”

In accordance with Section 8401 of the ESEA, OSSE must solicit public comment on any proposed waiver. OSSE welcomes and encourages your comments regarding the intent to apply for this waiver. Comments may be submitted via email to [email protected] by March 1, 2022. If you wish to provide comment, please include your full name, organization (if applicable), and contact information. OSSE will review all comments and incorporate feedback into the waiver request as applicable. In addition, comments and feedback will be shared with the US Department of Education alongside the waiver letter.