Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Banda asks Duncan to allow SPS Waiver

From Superintendent Banda:

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

Over the last several years we have made great strides in ensuring our students graduate ready for success in college, career and life. However, much work remains to ensure that each and every student has the academic and community supports they need to be successful learners in school and beyond.

In order to best serve our students and families, Seattle Public Schools is asking the U.S. Department of Education for a Local Educational Agency (LEA) waiver from several provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Specifically, we are requesting the flexibility to use 20 percent of our Title 1, Part A funds to provide our students with reading and math interventions and to help fund before and after school programs in our Title 1 schools. In the absence of a waiver, Seattle must set aside $2.1 million for the Public School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services provisions in NCLB, which would prevent us from investing these funds in what we know works best for our students.

Under NCLB, parents with students attending schools that do not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) must be notified of their school’s status, and be offered the choice to attend another school that meets AYP. However NCLB requires that unless 100 percent of students are proficient in reading and mathematics based on the state assessment by 2014, the school will be labeled “failing.” We anticipate that no schools (within the district or state) will meet this requirement. We believe that sending every family a letter notifying them that their school is “failing” is counterproductive to the progress we have been making.

While the state of Washington was denied the waiver in March, Seattle Public Schools satisfies every federal requirement to receive a waiver. In our request to the Department of Education today, we provide a clear rationale and include student achievement data illustrating the progress our students have made while the waiver was in place. Our argument is based on some of the points below:

  • Seattle Public Schools has adopted the Washington State accountability system to identify underperforming “Priority” and “Focus” schools to receive supplementary support services for school improvement each year.

  • Seattle Public Schools has collaborated with the Seattle Education Association (SEA) and the Principals Association of Seattle Schools (PASS) to develop teacher and principal evaluation models based on multiple measures that are designed to focus district and school efforts toward growing and elevating teaching and leadership practice.

  • The district has demonstrated through the two years of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver that it has the capacity to coordinate the allocation of Title I set-aside funds to maximize services to students and families. We were able to serve more than 3,000 qualifying students through researched-based academic interventions and before- and after-school programs.

  • The district transitioned from a school choice system to one where students have a predictable pathway, starting with their neighborhood school. This has helped reassure families that their child will always have a seat in a high quality school, close to home.

Our strategies have contributed to significant gains in academic proficiency and a narrowing of the achievement gap for our highest needs schools. The letter to the Department of Education, attached, provides a summary of student achievement in recent years.

We have evidence our strategies are working on behalf of students. We want the flexibility to continue investing the $2.1 million dollars in our current strategies and continue to expand opportunities for our most needy students. 

I hope you will support Seattle Public Schools in our effort to request this waiver. Should we be granted the request, we will be able to better serve our most needy students and ensure each of our 52,000 students has equitable access and opportunities to be successful in school and in life. If you have any questions or feedback about our waiver process, please email us

Thank you to our school leaders, teachers, staff, students, families and community members for your ongoing support of Seattle Public Schools.



José Banda
Seattle Public Schools

I think this is absolutely the right call by the Superintendent on the nonsense that is NCLB.  Seattle (and I venture other Washington state districts) ARE doing what they need to do.  


Charlie Mas said...

The Department of Education allowed the waiver so students would get a more effective intervention than the one mandated by the law. They pull the waiver over some political issue, forcing the students into a less effective intervention. How does this serve students? This is a clear case of the DOE - let's face it, Arne Duncan - putting politics over students.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I wouldn't call the teacher evaluation issue a "political issue." The DOE wrongly believes basing teacher evaluation on student test scores will increase student achievement. But that's a policy issue, not a political one.

And let's look at Banda's points --- (1) The USDOE has already given Washington the authority, even without the waiver, to provide interventions on "Priority" and "Focus" schools. In other words, there is no need for a district waiver on this account.

(2) There is no evidence that basing teacher/principal evaluation on student test scores improves student achievement. Besides, the district can do this without a waiver anyway.

(3) As has been pointed out on this blog ad nauseum, the district rarely even utilizes its Title I set-aside and are able to allocate those funds into the district general fund. In other words, the 3,000 students to which he refers will continue to receive their support regardless of a district waiver. Why can't the district use funds they waste on their own "political issues" to support these 3,000 students, even without Title I set-aside funds?

(4) The "school choice" issue is essentially the same as (3) above. The district, under NCLB (without a waiver), has to set aside a portion of their Title I funds for outside supplemental services and transportation to non-failing schools. Again, as has been pointed out, the district rarely uses these funds for this purpose. In other words, the district can provide support in neighborhood schools without the waiver.

I would like to see the district not have to play a shell game with their Title I funds and not have to send the letters to parents regarding "failing" schools. I hope they get the waiver. But, the waiver is not necessary for the district to do the good work it claims it is doing in Banda's letter to the DOE. With that said, there is little to no chance the district is getting this waiver.

--- swk