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NCLB Outrages

State blames feds for records snag

When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
--Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


By Margaret Ellis

A ponderous federal bureaucracy kept Washington state from complying with No Child Left Behind requirements regarding teachers, said Kim Schmanke, spokeswoman with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the agency regulating education.

The federal law requires states, in part, to create their own definition of a highly-qualified teacher, then count how many of their teachers make the grade.

Washington did that, Schmanke said. School district officials thumbed through the records of the state's 55,000 to 60,000 teachers and submitted the information for the 2004-05 school year to the Department of Education.

But the department told the state its definition wasn't adequate.

The Department of Education approved a revised definition in February, but Schmanke said the state wasn't willing to force school districts to compile 2004-05 information again while they were busy looking it up for the 2005-06 school year.

"I think you can understand the laborious nature of looking at highly-qualified teacher status year after year," Schmanke said. "It's the districts that have to do that work, and their core function is educating kids."

She said that while the Department of Education was expecting states to move quickly to gather information, the department waited until the last minute to approve the new qualified-teacher definition. "They'd seen it months before, and they just didn't respond in a timely fashion," Schmanke said.

Moreover, the federal agency never explicitly told Washington officials to compile the data again.

"It wasn't as though they wrote us a letter or called us," she said. It was mentioned at a Department of Education workshop in December, months before the department had approved Washington's new qualified-teacher definition.

Schmanke said the qualified-teacher definitions are complicated, and she couldn't learn about them and summarize them for reporters late Friday afternoon.

The Department of Education notified the state of its noncompliant status in an e-mail Friday at noon, she said. By then, late afternoon in the Department of Education's Washington, D.C., office, no one from the department was available, she said.

"We've had no opportunity to really study the letter, to study their evaluation, or even be able to talk to the department people," she said.

But the omission of the 2004-05 teacher records doesn't necessarily mean a loss of federal funds, Schmanke said.

"We don't know what it means yet," she said. "We'll be in communication with them."

— Margaret Ellis
The Columbian
2006-05-13


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