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Local schools not yet certain how 'No Child Left Behind' exemption will impact learning environment for students

Nearly two weeks ago Washington state learned the U.S. Department of Education has granted an exemption from some of the strict regulations implemented through the No Child Left Behind Act.

A new system for measuring school performance will be implemented, but local superintendents say they haven't yet received guidance.

Today (Thursday) the superintendents will participate in a webinar that Grandview Schools Superintendent Kevin Chase hopes will be insightful.

"We will have more flexibility with our budget," Chase said, explaining there has been some information that has reached the school districts regarding the use of Title I funding.

Dr. Rick Cole, superintendent for the Sunnyside School District, said "They are telling us a new system will be developed based on common core, but the system hasn't yet been developed."

He, too, said Title I funding, approximately $650,000 for Sunnyside schools, will provide local districts the ability to develop supplemental education programs from within.

With the old system, said Cole, the schools had to hire outside entities to provide such programs.

"Part of the funding can be used for district and school improvement," he said.

Mabton Schools Superintendent Minerva Morales said, "There are still a lot of unknowns."

Chase said, "No Child Left Behind has been a flawed effort for a long time. We knew it was unattainable, but it got a lot of people active in reforming schools."

Cole said he believes the new system will be developed to help schools meet benchmarks of academic success.

The local school districts currently use several measurements to meet the guidelines of No Child Left Behind, but those measurements are based on a number of assessments.

Assessments used in school districts locally include Measurement of Academic Performance testing, math and reading benchmark testing like DIBELS and state standardized tests, including the Measurement of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exams administered in the spring.

Graduation rates have also been utilized to measure the progress of schools.

Chase believes, "We are trading a flawed law for a set of other criteria the federal government has set in place...I believe it will be more thoughtful."

He said the new system will be more reflective of the work already being accomplished in Washington schools.

"They (the U.S. Department of Education) are recognizing that using funds in a different way might be more effective," said Chase.

Cole noted the new system for measuring school and academic performance won't be implemented until the 2014-15 school year.

In the meantime, the superintendents believe they have some homework to complete.

"The state is hosting webinars that will provide more information to local school districts...these webinars will assist districts on understanding the new system and how to best implement the changes to create a bigger impact on academic student success," said Morales.

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