...in the case of the Bay State, that approval came with an important caveat: The U.S. Department of Education would not approve an amendment that would have allowed Massachusetts to give its districts the choice this spring of using the state's current test, the MCAS, or using the PARCC assessments.U.S. DoE is concerned that it might create a two-tiered system, but, because Massachusetts has said that we'll be doing all one (of something) for 2015-16, they aren't going to pursue it further at this time. They'll potentially pull the waiver* if we don't, though.
While the department refused to approve Massachusetts' testing-choice amendment, it did approve the main waiver request. State officials said they do not risk losing their waiver by going ahead with the two-test-choice plan this spring, since they will be "in compliance" with the federal law requiring one test for all students in 2015-16, as Assistant Secretary Deborah S. Delisle specified in her letter.
You can read Commissioner Chester's letter to the state Board of Ed here. There's some interesting reasoning, including the politicizing of the Common Core debate in some states (does he think that hasn't happened here?), and feedback from local officials on the difficulty of implementating an online assessment. He closes with this:
I will not be the first or the last to comment that our obligation, likewise, is to do what's right for our districts.We value our partnership with the federal government, but there are times when partners will disagree, and when that happens, our first and foremost obligation is to do what is right for Massachusetts.
*This would put us back under the No Child Left Behind requirement of every child proficient by 2014, or, now. Like Washington state, that would mean that just about every school would be declared federally failing. You can read about the rest of the waivers that came through yesterday here.