Washington receives waiver from No Child Left Behind

Washington recently became the 26th state to get a waiver releasing it from certain constraints of failing to meet the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act and local educators expect good things from the change.

The waiver, announced on July 6 by the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, will relieve local school districts of certain aspects of the Bush Era program, such as requiring all students to pass statewide reading and math tests by 2014. The waiver also frees up Title 1 funding for school districts that was previously restricted based on scores.

Under the waiver, districts will replace the 2014 deadline for Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, scores with a provision that focuses on subgroups of students such as those in special education, English language learning students and those receiving free-or reduced-priced meals and requires these groups to test at a halfway point between current scores and 100 percent proficiency.

As an example, if one subgroup’s AYP score was 74 percent proficiency in 2011, the group would be required to be at 87 percent proficiency by 2018.

School officials and instructors familiar with the NCLB program expressed positive expectations from the change in the testing standards.

Central Kitsap School District Superintendent Greg Lynch said the full implications of the waiver would take some time for local districts to digest, but the changes should offer positive gains.

“I think it is positive overall, but there are details that we do not have or are not familiar with yet,” he said. “But any changes in the Adequate Yearly Progress standards, I think, will be positive changes for the Central Kitsap School District.”

Kirstin Nicholson, President of the Central Kitsap Teachers Union, said she has worked as an educator in the district teaching science during the NCLB era and the program’s standards did not sufficiently take into account the individual needs of all students.

“The waiver and more time,in my opinion, is a good thing,” she said. “Each child is obviously different and expecting children, such as those in special education and  English language learners, to pass the same tests as other students seems counterproductive.”

Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, Special Programs Director for the Bremerton School District, said NCLB had positive aspects, but often could have negative impacts on the students who often needed the most help.

“At first glance the program seemed to make sense,” she said.  “But a deeper look shows it could have incredibly negative consequences on students with special needs.”

Sullivan-Dudzic said the waiver would not change the commitment area educators have to students, it would simply allow more time and flexibility in meeting individual needs.

“This change does not shortchange students,” she said. “No one is going to be let up on trying to get 100 percent out of students.”

The change in school district’s use of Title 1 Funding is also positive,  Sullivan-Dudzic said.

Before the waiver, federal Title 1 Funding was required to be used to pay for service providers outside the district who conducted assessments and other services under NCLB.  Sullivan-Dudzic said the waiver will now allow greater flexibility in the use of the funding.

“The idea that you don’t have to set aside money for supplemental education for services outside the district is a good thing,” she said.

Bremerton School District officials said the waiver would free $350,000 for the district next year. Bremerton Superintendent Flip Herndon said the money could now be used directly within school districts.

“The key component of the funding is that every year we have had to set aside 20 percent of Title 1 funds for supplemental education service providers,” he said. “This allows us to invest in staff that directly serve our kids.”

Sullivan-Dudzic said she felt many educators in local districts were hopeful about the changes but still needed to learn more.

“I have learned in 29 years of doing this that you celebrate and then wait for the details,” she said.


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