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Wash. State, Hobbled by Evaluation Woes, Otherwise Excels Under NCLB Waiver

Washington State is in big trouble, and will probably lose its NCLB waiver, over teacher evaluation woes.

So it's no surprise that in a new monitoring report out today from the U.S. Department of Education, federal officials cite Washington for failing to comply with requirements to fully implement new teacher evaluations tied to student performance per required timelines.

But what is a surprise is this: When it comes to the crux of what No Child Left Behind Act waivers are about—school and district accountability—Washington is faring much better than other states.

Even as most other states struggle with the lowest-performing "priority" and "focus" schools, Washington is one of the few that's "meeting expectations" in those areas. Most other NCLB waiver states have really struggled, according to their monitoring reports, to implement School Improvement Grant interventions uniformly across all priority schools. And most states have struggled with focus schools—those with the largest achievement gaps—that fail to link interventions to the reason those schools are struggling in the first place. 

In fact, federal officials praise Washington for working collaboratively to raise expectations and set interventions for the lowest-performing schools. And, the state is praised for "developing a collection of instructional, research-based best practices for use by all schools in Washington." 

Washington is struggling in other areas, to be sure—not just with teacher evaluations. Federal officials found fault with how the state is monitoring how districts implement waiver-related programs. And, the federal department wants the state to explain what assessment it will give to students with severe disabilities in 2014-15.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has packaged these waivers as an all-or-nothing thing. But has anyone asked the secretary lately if he would consider revoking part of a waiver—maybe the parts dealing with waivers from the original law's teacher requirements—but let a state keep flexibility on the accountability side?

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