08-09-12: State waiver leads to transportation changes at choice schools
08-09-12: State waiver leads to transportation changes at choice schools
 The U.S. Department of Education has granted a waiver to Washington state that lifts some of the sanctions contained in the 11-year-old “No Child Left Behind” federal law. As a result, the Puyallup School District and other districts statewide will have more flexibility in how federal money is spent to promote student achievement. Beginning this fall, for example, the district will no longer be required to provide bus transportation to Firgrove and Waller Road elementary students whose families have opted to enroll children in schools outside of their attendance areas. The federal law permitted families to send their children to a selected nearby school, known as a “choice school,” when their attendance area school did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) learning goals for two consecutive years. Families that already have children at a choice school can continue to enroll them there this year and in succeeding years until the students transition to junior high; however, parents are now responsible for the child’s transportation to and from school beginning this September, said Kathy Ehman, the school district’s special services officer. By early August, the district planned to communicate with families of students at choice schools affected by the change. Last month’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Education lifts the requirement for all students in a school to meet reading and math proficiency by 2014. In return, school districts across Washington will need to show improvement in reading and math test scores for subgroups of students in various ethnic and economic groups. “This decision is welcome news that gives our state the opportunity to implement bold reforms around standards and accountability,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “It allows state and local educators to decide how to best meet the individual needs of students they serve.” In Puyallup, money that was spent to transport students away from the schools that did not meet learning goals can be redirected to support student learning — especially for struggling learners, Ehman said. Washington is one of more than 25 states that has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education concerning the No Child Left Behind law. In order to receive a waiver, each state had to commit to showing in other ways that its students and schools are improving. Washington’s waiver application recognized that the state has embraced new national education standards, new state teacher and principal evaluations, and efforts to look at student achievement beyond reading and math by also testing for science and writing. The waivers are considered a temporary measure while the federal education secretary works with Congress to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is known as the No Child Left Behind legislation. The waiver agreement announced this month addresses performance of Title I schools, which are public schools that receive federal dollars to help students who are academically at risk of falling behind. The state education office will now annually identify “priority schools,” which are the lowest-achieving 5 percent of Title I schools; “focus schools,” which are the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools; and “reward schools,” which are the highest-performing Title I schools — or those making the most progress in a given year. The state recently announced that Maplewood and Stewart elementary schools, which both receive Title 1 money, have been named as “reward schools.” The schools will receive recognition this fall for the achievement, which is based on three years of test score data.</p>
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