In the spring of 2014, Washington state lost its federal waiver that gave schools flexibility regarding the most punitive aspects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Without the waiver, all districts and schools that do not have 100 percent of students meeting standard in reading and math are considered to not be making Adequate Yearly Progress, and they must do several things:
Create a comprehensive improvement plan.
Send letters to parents every August notifying them of their school's failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress.
Set aside federal funds to allow parents to choose to send their child to another school (that is making Adequate Yearly Progress) or to an outside Supplemental Education Service provider for supplemental services.
Q. If I received a letter, is my school a failure?
A. NO! The Tukwila School District is especially proud of the work and achievement of each of its schools. Our students show tremendous GROWTH, which is the true measure of progress, especially considering the unique challenges of many of our children and families. For instance, Foster High's math department was in the top 1 percent in the state for student growth over the past three years, and Showalter Middle School won a Washington Achievement Award in spring 2014 for being top in the state advance English Language Learners (ELL). We strongly believe in accountability for the achievement of each and every student, but we believe that NCLB is flawed and does not properly represent the true learning that happens in classrooms. It is simply unrealistic to expect that 100 percent of children—no matter their background, no matter if they are ELL or special-education—will meet the same uniform bar of achievement at the same time. Ultimately, NCLB sets up every district and school in the nation to be "failing," if this is the measure we use. The U.S. Secretary of Education and national and state lawmakers agree that the law needs to be reauthorized; politics, however, have prevented that from happening.
A. The federal government began issuing NCLB flexibility waivers to states out of recognition that many of the law's requirements and sanctions are untenable. The waiver allows states to replace some parts of NCLB with their own accountability system. Washington state's waiver was contingent on the Legislature making it mandatory to include student-growth data in teacher evaluations. The Legislature failed to do so.