Washington loses waiver on No Child Left Behind

Washington state has become the first to lose its federal waiver for requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law as well as control over how about $40 million is spent to improve public school student outcomes, education officials announced Thursday.

State education officials say they received an email from Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying they were losing the waiver because the state did not meet the U.S. Department of Education's requirement to include statewide student test results in teacher evaluations.

Duncan wrote that he appreciated the state's effort toward education reform, but said they hadn't done enough to keep the flexibility waiver.

"Washington has not been able to keep all of its commitments," Duncan wrote.

Forty-two other states and Washington, D.C., have been given a waiver from some elements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as a stopgap until Congress acts to reauthorize the law.

Washington state has been operating under a conditional waiver for the past two school years, as lawmakers debated changes in state law but could not come to an agreement on teacher evaluations that satisfied the federal government.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn both called the announcement disappointing but not unexpected.

Washington expects to lose control over about $40 million in federal school dollars and will likely go back to using its old school evaluation system.

Under the No Child Left Behind Law, nearly every student in Washington public schools were expected to be reading and doing math at grade level by the end of the 2013-2014 school year. That goal -- referred to as adequate yearly progress -- will not be met by many schools.

Districts that do not make adequate yearly progress are required to set aside 20 percent of the federal dollars going to low income schools to provide tutoring or to pay to bus kids to different schools that are meeting the requirement.

The Tacoma school district, for example, has used that money --nearly $2 million -- instead to add preschool to five elementary schools and hire instructional coaches to all low-income schools in the district.

Dorn said Washington has made a lot of progress, despite not meeting the goals of No Child Left Behind. He says the problem is with the federal law and inaction by Congress.

"There is widespread acknowledgement that NCLB isn't working. Congress has failed to change the law at the federal level, so states are forced to come up with workarounds," Dorn said.