Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lesson - importance of primary sources ....

I happened to run across a Partnership for Learning article that shared what Washington must do to meet conditions for a continuing NCLB waiver.  What conditions?  In the article I read announcing the waiver that I posted about here, it did not speak about conditions.  It seems that our state’s waiver is only conditionally approved for one year unlike those granted to most states. 

So why did we only receive a conditional approval?  Because there are still questions at the federal level about the state’s plan in two areas; the same areas that I have identified in my previous posts that led to my concerns or skepticism with the proposal.

  • the continued study and refinement of Washington's new accountability index/system.
  • the use of student growth as a significant factor in its teacher-and-principal evaluation system.
Going to the letter from Secretary Duncan to Superintendent Dorn we find the issues summarized in this lengthy paragraph.

To receive approval to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2013–2014 school year, Washington must submit to the Department for review and approval an amended request incorporating:  (1) the final version of the new index, including by attaching to the amended request any technical documentation, administrative rules, and other relevant information; (2) rules regarding the use of student growth as a significant factor in teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that Washington’s Teacher and Principal Evaluation Project Steering Committee is expected to recommend by December 2012; and (3) a copy of the amended State statute that requires each focused evaluation to use student growth data.  If Washington’s amended request does not include the final version of the new index, fails to demonstrate that its final method for determining a teacher or principal’s summative evaluation rating includes student growth as a significant factor, fails to demonstrate that it has secured the necessary legislative change to require that focused evaluations include student growth, or if Washington does not receive approval of the amended request, the waivers being granted to Washington through ESEA flexibility will expire at the end of the 2012–2013 school year, and Washington and its districts will be required to immediately resume complying with all ESEA requirements.

What this means is that OSPI must meet the conditions for a continuing waiver by submitting:

  • the final version of the  Achievement Index.
  • rules regarding the use of student growth as a significant factor in educator evaluations.
  • a copy of the state's amended statute requiring the use of student growth data on focused educator evaluations.
Work is underway on the first bullet.  The second and third, however, may prove more difficult as the current language in statute provides local associations with the opportunity to bargain over what student data is used in teacher evaluations.  It will be interesting to follow the next legislative session to see if there are votes to make it more restrictive like Senate Bill 5895 did when it removed the flexibility for using one of the three state-approved evaluation models.

What did I learn?  I should have gone to the primary source document and not relied only on the news article.  I also learned that the story is not yet complete.

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