Washington is now one of 26 states to be granted a waiver from federal education requirements that place sanctions against underperforming schools, the state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced today.
The waiver by the U.S. Department of Education will allow schools that receive Title I funds through the "No Child Left Behind" law to keep their funds, even if the schools have missed achievement goals tied to standardized testing results.
In return, schools and districts must meet other goals and objectives to demonstrate struggling students are reaching academic targets. Some goals will include more adequately measuring teacher and principal performance through evaluations, streamlining learning with common core standards, and measuring student progress more broadly in multiple areas.
The state will also classify schools in categories from lowest to highest achieving to model positive work and institute interventions where needed.
The waiver grants relief from years of relying on a single exam to measure student progress. In Washington, that exam is the Measurements of Student Progress for K-8 students, and the High School Proficiency Exam and End of Course Exams for high schoolers.
In January, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn announced he was seeking a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal education law that was reauthorized in 2001 as the No Child Left Behind Act.
Through the law, schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress for two years in a row and receive Title I funds are placed in a system for improvement. Schools must then set aside 20 percent of their federal funds toward third-party supplemental educational services, or free tutoring.
In 2011, roughly two out of three schools in the state had not met AYP, Dorn said earlier this year. The goal of the federal law is to have all students meeting standards in reading and math by 2014.
Title I funds go to schools where a majority of students meet federal poverty guidelines. In Walla Walla, all district schools except Berney and Prospect Point are Title I schools. In College Place, all except Sager Middle School are Title I and will see relief under the waiver. All schools from both districts are in some step of improvement.
Through the waiver, the state will start identifying priority schools, or those in the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools; focus schools, or those in the lowest 10 percent; and reward schools, which will be grouped as either highest-performing or high-progress schools.
A highest-performing school would have met AYP in both reading and math for three years, with no significant opportunity gaps present. A high school would in addition need to have among the highest graduation rates in the state.
A high-progress school would be in the top 10 percent of Title I schools through combined reading and math scores over three years. A high-progress high school would show measured progress in increasing graduation rates.
Results from state exams taken in the spring are due later this summer.
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8317.