Nebraska Wins Battle with Feds

K-12 Testing
The U.S Department of Education (DOE) has withdrawn its threat to withhold some of Nebraska's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Title I funding and has granted preliminary approval to Nebraska's state assessment plan (see Examiner, August 2006). Nebraska is the only state to rely on local assessments to comply with NCLB. FairTest and other organizations had written to the DOE supporting Nebraska's assessment system and calling on the Department to back off from is planned sanctions.


Federal education officials had claimed Nebraska would be unable to show that all its districts' assessments met NCLB requirements by the end of this school year. The state replied that the federal review team had ignored substantial evidence, and it submitted additional information. One major issue was that the state had planned to take two years to implement a new process for reviewing each district's assessments. (All districts had already been reviewed by expert panels using a comprehensive rating guide.). The state wanted to pilot the new review process this year, fine tune it, then completely roll it out next year. Under DOE pressure, the state will now evaluate every district this year.


"[O]ur system has been validated as we knew it should have been from the beginning," said Nebraska Education Commissioner Doug Christensen. "We are pleased that all penalties and fines announced earlier have been removed."


Nebraska also will participate in the DOE working group formed to develop new assessments for English Language Learners, though the state is now using an assessment developed over several years in collaboration with national experts and a group of other states (see story, this issue).