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State loses No Child Left Behind waiver for public schools

— The federal government will not renew the state’s public schools waiver for accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act.

According to a letter U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent today, Washington state public schools lose their waiver beginning with the next school year.

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said, blaming Congress for previously approving the “failed” law.

Conversely, Duncan’s letter said the loss of a waiver is the fault of the state educational system and the failure to require teacher and principal evaluations to include student academic success criteria.

“One of the commitments that Washington ... made was to put in place teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account information on student learning growth, based on high-quality and career-ready state assessments as a significant factor in determining teacher and principal performance levels…,” the letter said. “Including student learning growth as a significant factor among the multiple measures used to determine performance levels is important as an objective measure to differentiate among teachers and principals…”

The letter called the state’s public schools “high-risk” and the loss of the waiver means local districts will have to set aside 20 percent of Title I funds for school choice and supplemental educational programs.

Title I funds are generally earmarked for districts with high percentages of low-income students.

With a waiver in place the last two years, school districts had greater latitude on how to spend the funds.

Dorn said his office will work with local schools to minimize the effect of the waiver’s loss. He also said he hopes the Legislature will act next year to require student academic achievement to be significantly included in teacher and principal competency evaluations.

“Student progress should be one of multiple elements in a teacher’s evaluation,” he said. “Unfortunately, the teacher’s union (Washington Education Association) felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change...”

Moving forward, Dorn said districts’ students will continue to take the Adequate Yearly Progress test measuring academic achievement.

Districts not making the grade will be required to set aside the funds to hire private tutors or bus students to another school meeting minimum testing requirements.

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