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Dept. of Ed Renews State’s ESEA Waiver
Cautions that lack of student growth data puts Washington at “high risk”

OLYMPIA — August 15, 2013 — The U.S. Department of Education extended the waiver Washington state has received from requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act through the 2013-14 school year.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said he expected to receive the extension. “This gives us a chance to continue the reforms we’ve started in the past few years,” he said. “Those reforms seem to be effective, but having them in place another year will give us a better sense of how effective.”

The original waiver request, which was approved in July 2012, centered on the state implementing three key education reforms:

  1. College and career-ready expectations for all students;
  2. State-developed recognition and accountability system support system; and
  3. Teacher/Principal evaluations.

The Dept. of Education termed Washington’s original waiver “conditional” because concerns about the state’s new accountability index and teacher and principal evaluation.

While the first concern has been addressed in this year’s waiver request, the second remains and has led the state’s waiver to be designated “high risk.” At issue is the use of students’ scores on state tests from year to year, known as student growth data. Paragraph 2(f) of Senate Bill 5895, passed in 2012, states, in part:

“Student growth data … must be based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based, and state-based tools.”

The Dept. of Education objected to the word “can.” In its letter explaining the use of the term “high risk,” the Department wrote that “Washington’s interpretation of including student growth as a significant factor in educator evaluation systems is inconsistent with the ESEA Flexibility definition of ‘student growth.”

Dorn said he wasn’t surprised that the new waiver was deemed high-risk. “When the Legislature was debating 5895, I said that the language didn’t go far enough,” he said. “The Department of Education agrees with me. Now the Legislature has the next session to strengthen the law.

“The waiver also gives us a chance to fully implement the Common Core state standards. It will take some time for teachers to adjust to the new standards and the curricula to teach them.”

To remove the high-risk label, the Department requires three actions:

  1. Submission of a plan describing how Washington’s teacher and principal evaluation system meets the ESEA flexibility requirements.
  2. Provide monthly updates on the state’s progress in carrying out the plan.
  3. By May 1, 2014, submit an amended request to the Department that incorporates final guidelines for the teacher and principal evaluation systems, including the use of student growth data “as a significant factor in determining teacher and principal performance levels.”


About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.

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Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 8/15/2013

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