Local schools face renewed sanctions of No Child Left Behind

Federal government did not renew state waiver this past spring

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"The reason our students learn, grow and achieve at high levels is not because of a mandate from the federal government." -- Mike Nerland, Camas superintendent

After the federal Department of Education removed Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver, local schools are being faced with a return of the former system.

As a result, several school districts across the state, including Camas and Washougal, sent letters home to parents this past week to inform them of the changes.

The NCLB Act of 2001 required all states to create their own high academic standards in English-language arts and math. By 2014, all students, regardless of special needs or circumstances, are required to meet those standards, referred to as Adequate Yearly Progress.

Any district receiving Title 1 (part A) funds is identified as a district in improvement if it does not meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals for two years.

The Washougal school district, in addition to many across the state, has received this designation.

Washington state was granted a flexibility waiver in 2012 which removed these requirements. However, the Legislature declined to amend state law to require teacher and principal evaluations to include student growth on the state tests. As a result, the waiver was removed by the federal government.

The loss of the waiver also includes financial penalties for districts that do not meet AYP. Those districts are required to reserve at least 10 percent of Title I funds for professional development for teachers and administrators, create a working group of parents and district staff to revise its improvement plan, and continue to provide assistance to schools identified as being in improvement.

“No Child Left Behind was written with the intent that all, 100 percent of our students, reach proficiency on state tests in reading and math…AYP is reported as a single ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ which hides the richness of the details,” said Mike Nerland, Camas School District superintendent. “Those details reveal a picture of students with diverse challenges, abilities and interests. They reveal increased achievement in many areas and against-the-odds success stories.”

Dawn Tarzian, Washougal School District superintendent, noted that attending to the learning needs of children with added challenges is critical.

“The NCLB sub-groups include children growing up at the federal poverty rate,” she said. “To qualify for free breakfast and lunch, a family of four must make less than $23,854 annually. These children and their parents depend on our school systems to set high goals and to provide the support that is needed. Children growing up in poverty are no less capable.”

Both Nerland and Tarzian agree that their focus is and will continue to be growth for all students.

“The reason our students learn, grow and achieve at high levels is not because of a mandate from the federal government,” Nerland said. “It is due to the commitment and collaborative efforts of all our stakeholders, through high quality instruction delivered by dedicated teachers, caring and professional support staff, effective leadership at the school and district levels, and collaborative partnerships with parents, families and community.”

Added Tarzian, “Since the enactment of NCLB, increased learning success has been documented in both the Camas and Washougal School District, including in disciplines and subjects not measured by the tests required under this Act. Our hope for the future would be that these successes and the effort behind them would be encouraged, supported, and celebrated by a nation preparing a diversifying student population for the global society of their future.”