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Washington’s appeal over No Child Left Behind waiver denied

By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state has lost its latest bid for flexibility under the federal No Child Left Behind law, state officials said Monday. U.S. Department of Education officials have rejected a request made about a month ago by Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Dorn asked if Washington could be exempt from a rule that requires schools not making adequate yearly progress to send letters to parents notifying them of this situation and explaining that students can transfer to a school that is making adequate yearly progress. The letters, usually sent right before the new school year begins, also offer outside tutoring. Washington was the first state to lose its waiver from elements of the federal education law. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia were given waivers while they wait for Congress to reauthorize the federal framework for the nation’s schools. In a letter dated Friday, Assistant Education Secretary Deborah S. Delisle told Dorn that even in districts where parents have no better school choices available, she believes it is beneficial for parents to be told that they have the right to school choice under the law. Dorn said Monday afternoon that he expected his latest request to the federal government to be rejected, but he sent the letter because he was being pressured by lawmakers and others to make one more effort to get flexibility from the federal government. “I wrote the letter so that I could show them that I’m trying to do my part,” Dorn said. But he stressed that his part was really completed during the Legislature’s most recently concluded session when he strongly encouraged lawmakers to approve a change in state law that would have required schools to use improvement in state test scores as a part of teacher evaluations. Changing the teacher evaluation law will again be on Dorn’s to-do list for the 2015 legislative session. He has been assured by federal education officials that as soon as Washington revises its teacher-evaluation law, it will be eligible for a new waiver from elements of the federal education law. He expects 2015 will be one of the longest legislative sessions ever and education will be among the most important and contentious issues, from the Supreme Court order on school funding to teacher evaluations, Dorn said. “I’m always optimistic. But I think it’s still going to be one of those things that will be negotiated until the very last minute,” Dorn said of the teacher evaluation proposal.
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