Message from the Superintendent


January 6, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

I hope you had an opportunity to enjoy a break and find yourself rested and well in this new calendar year!  I am still having to remind myself to write 2016, and not 2015…my how the years seem to fly!

Made final and official in December just before our winter break, the federal government actually did replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law with a new law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  And while the goals of NCLB were admirable, the logistics of it as you know were very problematic.  Thus, after several years of wrangling at the federal level, and an era of Department of Education waivers that states received and in our case lost for not complying with some DOE rules, we enter a transition year!  The NCLB act officially ends this August; however, the 2016-17 school year is the transition year for the new law, ESSA.  During this next year, many of the items need to be further defined and refined by the “state” not the federal government.  Most see this as a good thing, and depending on how the state does its job… I will agree.

This week, I attended a briefing with Sarah Bolton the Education Policy Director for Senator Patty Murray, who was instrumental in working with her colleagues in the Senate and getting agreement to change this federal law.  A sincere thank you to Senator Patty Murray!  Ann Seabott, the Northwest Washington Director for Senator Murray was also at the meeting as were other supt. colleagues from the area.  We were briefed on the new law and had an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the “what comes next” aspects of the transition away from NCLB and into ESSA.  We also gave our input as to how best proceed and appreciated the receptiveness that the policy staff showed in that exchange.
Following is a link to a handout the Senator’s staff provided; it is an overview of this new law:  Click Here for Attachment 
In the next couple of weeks, representatives from the Senator’s office will be meeting with the Department of Education, our own from OSPI, and other state level leaders to determine exactly what things and for how long the state of Washington needs to continue under the old law and what and when we can drop NCLB requirements leading into next year.  For example, under the new law the HQ or highly qualified teacher status goes away…but when for Washington?  The required “choice” for students (with district funded transportation) who went to different schools and the tutoring (paid by the district to outside providers) for students in schools that did not meet the requirements of NCLB --- go away…but when for Washington?
Feel free to take some time and read the attachment.  Also, since many of the things that we will be required to do under the new law are to be determined by our own state, this is a really good time to pay attention and participate more in your respective statewide association(s) as their voice and input is critical and proximate to those in Olympia who will shape our state laws, regulations, rules, etc. in the context of ESSA. 
This all reminds me of the ending scene in the movie Ghostbusters when they are standing on top of the building and given the choice to determine their own fate and then one of them thinking they would surely be safe thinks of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man --- who they then have to battle to victory.  So, as we work on this as a state through our always interesting state policy formation process, let’s be careful what we think of and invent along the wayJ  Some of the same interests that shaped NCLB are still alive in our state and we will all need to be mindful and vigilant to keep ESSA from being morphed back into a state version of NCLB.
Get involved in your association’s work on the details of ESSA!  You will live with and work under the results; moreover, rather than just play policy “whack-a-mole” with some of the silly ideas that will surface in this process, let’s make this new law and its components for Washington something more than compliance, let’s use this opportunity to make something that is truly constructive in helping with student learning!



Last Modified on January 6, 2016