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Thursday, September 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Local school officials hope to influence federal education law

Although a new federal education law replacing No Child Left Behind won’t be fully implemented for a year or more, parents and students can expect some immediate changes. One of the first – the district will no longer send letters home informing families that their schools are failing.

And although students will still take statewide reading and math exams, the amount of time spent taking tests will be limited. Additionally, the law allows states to replace statewide high school tests with the SAT or ACT.

“That is something we’re very interested in,” said Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger. “That would be a huge step forward. All kids, in one test, would have an entrance test to college.”

Spokane’s largest school district currently pays for students to take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and SAT.

President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law on Thursday.

Its language allows for local school districts to provide input and have some measure of control over the state process.

“That’s what this legislation is trying to say, not only are states unique, but individual districts are unique,” said Lorna Spear, director of early learning and intervention at Spokane Public Schools.

She will likely be involved in any discussion with the state.

“As states decide some of these details, we want to make sure we have a voice at the table,” said Redinger.

The new legislation returns control of about $40 million in federal dollars to local school officials.

The law also focuses on developing well-rounded students, instead of only looking at test scores, said Spokane Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Steven Gering. According to the law, districts have to spend money on programs that help students become well-rounded and activities that help children be safe and healthy.

“It’s just a shift away from test scores only,” Gering said.

The district will send representatives to work with the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction starting early next year. The act calls for full implementation by the 2016-17 school year.

“They are not going to wait, they are leaping into it right now,” Spear said.

Two programs will end with the implementation of the new law: The Adequate Yearly Progress choice system and Supplemental Education Services were both federally mandated programs offered to parents with children in failing schools.

The choice system offered parents of children in schools considered “failing” the option of sending their child to another school. The supplemental program offered additional academic support services. Both were tied to the mandatory testing included in No Child Left Behind, which most students had to pass if the school was to avoid the “failing” label.

The Spokane Education Association heralded the new law, which removes federal oversight of teacher evaluations.

Debby Chandler, vice president of the union, said the law gives states, districts and educators “a lot more say in what goes on.”

She said she will be on the National Education Association’s implementation committee.

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