SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday that Washington has won its bid to be excused from some requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, including the need for every child to pass statewide reading and math tests by 2014.
Washington joins 25 other states that have earned waivers from the federal education law.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said the waiver will give Washington a chance to grow beyond test scores as the only way to judge the success of students and their schools.
It also will give school districts more flexibility about how they spend some federal dollars.
In return, Washington will need to show improvement in test scores for subgroups of students who have historically had lower scores than average, such as those who qualify for free- or reduced-price meals.
Washington's waiver application emphasized its embrace of new national education standards, the state's new teacher and principal evaluations, and its efforts to take a broader look at student achievement beyond reading and math by also testing for writing and science.
The waivers are considered a temporary measure while Education Secretary Arne Duncan continues to work with Congress to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law, which is formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The waiver agreement requires that by 2018, Washington cut in half achievement gaps between various ethnic and economic groups, when compared with 100 percent passage rates. For example, if one group had 74 percent passing reading in 2011, that group would need to have 87 percent passing by 2018.
The agreement adds another requirement for Title I schools, which are high-poverty public schools that get extra money from the federal government to help students who are behind academically or at risk of falling behind.
It requires the state education office to annually identify priority schools, which are the 5 percent lowest achieving of Title I schools; focus schools, which are the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools; and reward schools, the highest performing Title I schools or those making the most progress in a given year.