The U.S. Department of Education extended Washington state’s waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — also known as ‘No Child Left Behind’ in recent years — for the upcoming school year.
The waiver helps the state avoid penalties under the ESEA as Washington state tries to implement three reforms that were part of its original waiver plan. Those reforms include:
• College and career-ready expectations for all students;
• State-developed recognition and accountability support system; and
• Teacher/principal evaluations.
The Department of Education termed this year’s extension “high risk” due to issues with specific wording in Washington state Senate Bill 5895. Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn’s office said part of that bill reads, “Student growth data … must be based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based and state-based tools.”
The department objected to the use of the word ‘can,’ saying that Washington state’s “interpretation of including student growth as a significant factor in educator evaluation systems is inconsistent with the ESEA definition.”
Dorn said he saw this objection coming.
“When the Legislature was debating 5895, I said that the language didn’t go far enough,” he said. “The Department of Education agrees with me. Now the Legislature has the next session to strengthen the law.”
Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano is chagrined.
“I was disappointed to learn that the Washington Legislature did not address the federal requirements under NCLB and instead allowed local school districts to determine what student measures should be tied to teachers’ performance,” he said. “A persistent pattern seems to repeat itself from Olympia, and it’s the ‘pass the buck’ mentality.”
Plano warned “that if the 2014 Legislature does not address this requirement to the satisfaction of Education Secretary Duncan’s requirements, the Mercer Island School District stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal aid.”
The Federal Way Mirror is a sister publication of the Mercer Island Reporter. Mary L. Grady contributed to this story.