No Child sanction not good news for local school officials

They say state's loss of waiver will have negative effects

By Lauren Dake, Columbian political writer

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The loss of a waiver freeing the state from many of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law means local schools will lose the ability to boost reading and math programs for some of their lowest-achieving students, district officials said.

“I don’t think it’s positive when you remove resources that could provide direct services to students,” said Mike Stromme, associate superintendent for teaching and learning with Vancouver Public Schools.

Thursday’s announcement by Education Secretary Arne Duncan means that Vancouver Public Schools, one of the region’s largest school districts, will lose control over about $1.8 million in federal Title I funds. The district will now be federally required to put $600,000 of that money toward professional development and another $1.2 million for supplemental education services — allowing families to hire tutors from private vendors. That money had been used to go toward reading and math intervention programs.

The announcement means the district will be limited in providing resources where it sees a need, Stromme said. Out of the district’s 35 schools, 16 of them receive Title 1 funds.

Across the state, districts are expected to lose flexibility in how they use $40 million in federal funds. Duncan called the state of Washington out for not meeting federal requirements to incorporate student’s performance on standardized tests in teacher evaluations.

Jeff Snell, deputy superintendent for the Camas School District, lamented the restricting of federal funds. “It makes it more challenging,” he said.

But he said the call for linking teacher evaluations to student test scores is misdirected.

“There seems to be thinking of people outside education that changing this one word, that you ‘must’ use student (tests) for (teacher) assessments rather than you ‘may’ — they think that’s more accountability,” Snell said.

Instead, Snell said, teachers should be and are held accountable based on a variety of more relevant factors.

Some lawmakers, however, blasted the teacher’s unions for blocking the changes to how teachers are evaluated.

Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that the move was “disappointing but not unexpected.”

For the past two years, the state has been operating a conditional permit.

The move will affect districts that don’t meet Adequate Yearly Progress proficiency standards for the 2014-15 school year. Out of the 10 school districts in Clark County, only the smallest district, Green Mountain, met the most recent AYP report cards’ requirements.

“We can safely say that most schools (that use Title I) will be affected,” said Kristen Jaudon, a spokeswoman with the office of superintendent of public instruction.