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No reprieve for Washington schools under 'No Child Left Behind'

Washington’s new teacher evaluation law may be too weak to satisfy the federal government. The U. S. Department of Education did not free the state from the strictures of No Child Left Behind today, leaving Washington schools open to harsh sanctions in two years.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn asked for the waiver, submitting an alternative plan to improve student achievement. The federal government came back with a list of concerns, including questions about whether the state’s newly passed teacher evaluation system undervalues student achievement, and whether experienced teachers will be graded often enough.

Mack Armstrong, assistant executive director of the Washington Association of School Administrators, says the state’s hands are effectively tied.

“That’s a tough one because our law is real specific of what data we can use. And so, because it’s written in law, we can’t necessarily negotiate that away. That’s a standard that our legislators have adopted,” Armstrong said.

Dorn’s office declined to comment, saying only that they are still negotiating with the Department of Education. Secretary Arne Duncan says he expects to announce waivers for more states in coming weeks.