Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Jan. 19, 2022

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With White House rethinking tests, Washington wants its ‘No Child’ waiver back


The state’s outgoing K-12 schools chief, Randy Dorn, will try to persuade federal officials to let Washington out of the No Child Left Behind doghouse, according to a blog post in Education Week.

Last year, Washington became the first state in the country to lose a waiver from many of the provisions of the national education law because it would not require districts to use state test scores in evaluating teachers.

But there are signs in the other Washington that attitudes about standardized testing — and its role in teacher evaluations — are shifting.

President Obama recently called for a cap on standardized testing, just as a new report from the Council of the Great City Schools concluded that the tests required by various levels of government are often redundant, incoherent and uninformative for teachers, students and parents.

Dorn is thinking about having a conversation with Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, but Dorn hasn’t scheduled anything yet, said Kristen Jaudon, spokeswoman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The time for that conversation is running out, though.

Dorn has announced he won’t seek a third term next year and Duncan is stepping down in December after seven years in Obama’s Cabinet.

With federal waivers — which Washington had for awhile — school districts didn’t have to set aside some of their federal funds to pay for private tutoring for students attending schools where test scores fell under certain levels. Instead, the districts were able to use those dollars to provide preschool, full-day kindergarten, teacher training and extra help from certified teachers after school and during the summer.

After Washington lost its waiver, the state did not submit another formal request to get it back, although the U.S. Department of Education had discussions with Dorn’s office in 2015.

But the feds held firm.

Seattle asked for its own waiver last year, citing its teacher-evaluation approach, which until this year did use test scores, not as part of the evaluation, but as a trigger to determine whether a teacher’s performance needed a closer look.

The U.S. DOE rejected Seattle’s request and it’s now moot because, under the teacher contract approved this fall, test scores no longer will play any role in teacher evaluations.

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