Wash. to apply for waiver to US education law



SEATTLE – Washington education officials said Monday they have decided to request a waiver to the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The law expects every child in the nation to be at grade level in math and reading by 2014. If granted, the waiver would give Washington state more leeway in reaching the goals it set for itself.

Although Washington students are nearing the goal for reading, they are far from reaching their math goals.

Last week, President Barack Obama granted waivers to 10 of the 11 states that have applied so far. Many others, like Washington, were waiting to see the results of the first applications before deciding whether to apply for a waiver.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said on Monday that he wasn’t ready to share the details of the state’s waiver request, but some details about Washington’s plans have been online since mid-January.

Dorn said he would announce the state’s plan on Wednesday.

According to a 269-page draft proposal posted on the OSPI website, Washington will likely ask for 10 waivers from the federal law. They would include the following:

  • Time to develop new “ambitious but achievable” learning goals for Washington students.
  • Exemptions from the requirement to adopt federally approved turnaround plans for dealing with failing schools.
  • Loosening of rules around how some federal school improvement dollars can be spent, and on moving money from one program to another.

Dorn said the state may decide to apply for its own waiver or join a group of states asking for a general waiver for all.

The federal government has said states applying for waivers must meet certain requirements, including making a commitment to design, pilot and implement a teacher and principal evaluation system that is based significantly on “student growth measures.”

Washington state does not meet that requirement, but a proposal making progress in the Legislature this session could change that.

Lawmakers on Monday were working on a compromise bill to change the way state teachers are evaluated, and improvement in student learning would be factor in teacher evaluations if a proposed compromise bill becomes law.