SEATTLE — Washington’s application for a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Law will focus on efforts to close the achievement gap between kids of different races, state education officials said Wednesday.
The federal government has already approved all 11 of the applications from other states wanting a break from the federal student achievement law. That may bode well for Washington but it’s by no means a guarantee of success.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said the Obama administration is helping states revise their waiver applications so they pass scrutiny. He cautioned, however, that state education officials would not be convinced to raise their proposal to a level that isn’t attainable in order to get the waiver.
“If they come back and say you didn’t go far enough, we’ll say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ We’re going to do what’s best for Washington students,” Dorn said.
No Child Left Behind requires every kid in the nation to show they can do math and reading at grade level by 2014.
Washington wants to trade that goal for a new one: to cut the achievement gap at every school in half by 2017. Dorn called the new goal more realistic, and said it would also help the kids most in need of help. Washington has until Feb. 28 to apply.
Everyone recognizes that the original goal set every school up for failure, Dorn said. If just one kid doesn’t pass the test used to determine how they’re doing in reading and math, then a whole school would be considered a failure in 2014.
In 2011, about two-thirds of Washington schools didn’t make adequate yearly progress, according to the goals set by this state to comply with the federal law.
This year’s goals do not require 100 percent of students to meet standard, but the goals ramp up each year until 2014. Dorn predicted every school in Washington — and most likely the nation would fail in 2014.
The first states approved for flexibility in meeting the rules of No Child Left Behind are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
If Washington doesn’t get a waiver through this process, the state has a backup plan, Dorn said. It is working with a coalition of states to ask for a group accommodation.