State schools chief Randy Dorn responds to loss of waiver under NCLB

Here is text of Dorn's statement

Tacoma News TribuneApril 24, 2014 

Washington: First State to Lose Flexibility Waiver
OSPI will work closely with school districts to make sure this change impacts students as little as possible

OLYMPIA — April 24, 2014 — Washington state’s current waiver from the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act will not be renewed for the 2014-15 school year according to a letter emailed today from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The state has been operating under a conditional waiver for the past two school years.

“I’m disappointed — but not surprised,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said. “There is widespread acknowledgment that NCLB isn’t working. Congress has failed to change the law at the federal level, so states are forced to come up with workarounds.”

“Washington state has been doing great work under our waiver agreement,” Dorn said. “We have developed our own system that more accurately reflects the progress being made by schools across the state. But to get our waiver renewed for next year, the Department of Education was clear: The Legislature needed to amend state law to require teacher and principal evaluations to include student growth on state tests, when appropriate. I agree: Student progress should be one of multiple elements in a teacher’s evaluation. Unfortunately the teacher’s union felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change and pressured the Legislature not to act.”

What’s next
In the 2014-15 school year, Washington state will once again report Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP is an annual measure of student achievement on state tests in reading and math. The goal is for all students to reach proficiency in both subjects by 2014. Results from the spring 2014 tests will be released in late summer.

Districts that do not meet AYP are required to “set aside” 20 percent of their Title I funds they may receive from the federal government. This money must be reserved either for private vendors to provide tutoring or to bus students who want to transfer to a school that did not fail to meet AYP. Money that goes unused for these purposes is returned to the district, but not until the school year is well underway and too late to be included in that year’s operating budget.

For example
If the state had not received a waiver in the 2013-14 school year, Tacoma Public Schools would have been required to “set aside” $1.8 million of their Title I funds. Instead, they were able to use that money to:

  1. Add preschool to five elementary schools.
  2. Add instructional coaches to all Title I schools in the district.
The district hopes they can continue these programs next year, but finding the money to pay for them will not be easy.

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