With Washington being the first state to lose its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind education law, all 1.04 million students in 295 school districts here will automatically receive letters this fall saying they are attending “failing” schools, says Randy Dorn, the state superintendent of public instruction.
We’re not the only ones: Of the 42 other states that received waivers from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Oregon, Arizona and Kansas risk losing theirs, too, by the end of this school year, according to the DOE.
But it’s not just the “schools” that are failing them — it’s also the fault of the teachers, state legislators and the rest of us as families and taxpayers.
The Washington Education Association (WEA) union of teachers has refused to mandate that student scores on statewide tests be used in teacher evaluations, a condition of the law that dictates how federal funding is used. State legislators — not wanting to lose the teachers’ union’s support — failed to pass legislation that would require the union to do so. And we, the public that both groups ultimately serve, have enabled this to happen by not denouncing their actions.
WEA president Kim Mead shifted the blame, saying,” I can only conclude rescinding the waiver is a failure of federal policy, not of our public schools, students or teachers.”
Yes, the federal law requiring all students to pass state reading and math tests this year has unrealistic expectations at best, since all students learn at varying rates while tests are written as “one size fits all.” But high expectations are something to aspire to reach, not discount as being unattainable and, hence, disregarded. This is not a lesson we should teach our students.
By not having one word in our state’s law changed — from “optional” to “mandated” — the teachers and legislators failed our students regardless, with the loss of $1.6 million in federal funding for Seattle Public Schools, according to officials. With the waiver intact, those dollars had been used to offer after-school and summer tutoring by certified teachers, preschool and all-day kindergarten — all to help disadvantaged students. This money would now be directed back to busing for students transferring from a failing school to a non-failing school and individual tutoring from private vendors.
It all comes down to accountability: Though it’s the only apparent measure of their success in the classroom, teachers don’t want to be responsible for their students’ lack of educational achievement.
And there’s no accounting for a whole generation of students still not getting the education they deserve.