OLYMPIA — State Superintendent Randy Dorn announced today that he would apply for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind sanctions.
“My office looked at hundreds of comments from the general public,” Dorn said. “I talked to many people in districts and schools and worked closely with the State Board of Education on the application. Schools need to be relieved from the burden of No Child Left Behind and focus their time and energy on helping our students succeed.”
If approved, Washington state would be relieved of Adequate Yearly Progress rules. Current AYP rules include increasing consequences for Title I schools and districts that do not meet certain percentage levels of students passing state tests each year. In 2011, roughly two out of every three schools in Washington did not meet AYP.
Schools that do not meet AYP two or more years in a row are considered in a “step” of improvement. Those schools must set aside 20 percent of their Title I money for supplemental educational services and for students who might request school choice. A waiver would eliminate the set-aside requirement.
As an alternative to current AYP rules, Washington would set annual measurable objectives that focus on the proficiency gaps between different groups of students. By 2017, the gaps would be half of what they were in 2011.
“By looking at the achievement gap, our plan focuses on the students most in need,” Dorn said. “Our intent is for the 20 percent of set-aside money to get those students individualized help.”
States requesting a waiver must establish and meet four principles:
1. College and career-ready expectations for all students;
2. State-developed differentiated recognition, accountability and support;
3. Support for effective instruction and leadership; and
4. Reduction in duplication and unnecessary burden.
Washington has met all four principles. In 2011, the state adopted the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math, and it is a lead state in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. The state is adopting a new accountability system. It also passed historical legislation in 2010 that will change the way teachers and principals are evaluated. Finally, reducing duplication is an ongoing task in all states.
No Child Left Behind refers to the 2002 iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), first passed by the U.S. Congress in the mid-1960s. NCLB was scheduled to be reauthorized in 2007, but Congress could not agree on a reauthorization package, which meant the existing law stayed in effect.
“Congress really needs to do its job and rewrite No Child Left Behind,” Dorn said. “The law raised a lot of awareness that all students need to be proficient in math and reading. Unfortunately, it also punished schools and districts unfairly, and it set unrealistic goals that no school or district can meet.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 10 of the 11 states that initially applied for waivers were approved, and the department is working with the 11th state.
A copy of the draft of Washington’s waiver application can be found athttp://www.k12.wa.us/ESEA/Pubdocs/DraftFlexibilityRequest.pdf. The final application is due Feb. 28.