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Seattle's Request for an NCLB Waiver Denied by Ed. Dept.

The U.S. Department of Education has told the Seattle school district that it cannot get its very own waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a letter sent last week to Larry Nyland, the district's superintendent, from Deb Delisle, the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.

Washington state became the first to lose its NCLB flexibility over a year ago, because the state didn't require districts to incorporate state test scores into its teacher evaluation system. (Districts could just rely on local test scores.) In applying for the federal leeway, Seattle argued that its district-level system should pass federal muster, since its evaluation does require state test scores to be part of the picture. And getting the waiver back in place would give Seattle access to funds that now have to be set aside for outdated NCLB school improvement remedies, like tutoring and school choice.

The department has allowed other districts, including a consortia in California that includes Los Angeles, to have their own NCLB waiver, even after California's statewide bid was rejected.

So why can't Seattle do the same thing? Because the department and many folks in Washington state still haven't given up hope that the Evergreen State could get its waiver back. District waivers are really only supposed to be for school systems whose states have essentially given up on the broader, statewide flexibility.

Legislation—backed by state Superintendent Randy Dorn—that would have required test scores to be part of the evaluation picture passed the state Senate but failed to gain traction in the House.

The Emerald City's waiver rejection could put added pressure on U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is working with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on a bill to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act, which would eliminate the need for waivers.

The news about Seattle's waiver woes was first reported by the Seattle Times.

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