Today is the first day of school in Seattle. I have never been more excited and nervous for the first day because, not only do I start teaching, but my 5-year-old starts kindergarten! My son is so thrilled for his first day of school and our family feels so fortunate to have such a wonderful public school to send him to.
Unfortunately, the irreparably flawed No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has cast a shadow on what should be a joyous start to the year. As explained below, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan revoked the NCLB waiver for Washington state because our legislature would not tie teacher evaluations to test scores. Revoking the NCLB waiver then labeled nearly every school in the state a failure and mandated that districts notify parents that their child attends a failing school.
My son’s school is not a failure. The school where I teach is not a failure. It is the test-and-punish policy of NCLB that is failing.
Thankfully, a new initiative from parents, students, educators, and community members has formed to stand up to Arne Duncan’s bullying of our schools called OurSchoolsAreNotFailing.org. Be sure to sign the petition in support Washington state’s schools, share your story on the website about the great work that occurs in your school, and read the following statement from the OurSchoolsAreNotFailing.org website:
Our Schools Are Not Failing: NCLB is Failing Us
This year, most school districts across Washington state were forced by Secretary Arne Duncan’s selective enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act to send letters to all parents that labeled our schools as failures. We are parents, teachers, students and community members who reject this label that has been placed on our schools.
We know that our schools are not failures. In fact, our schools’ accomplishments have been remarkable, especially given the deeply flawed policy imposed on them by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are certainly changes needed for our schools—many due to the legacy of racism, class inequality, and lack of equitable funding for our schools—we believe that those changes should be directed by communities that make up local school districts, not from top-down mandates. This website will share stories and testimonials about the great things that are happening in our schools that should be supported and connect our communities so that we can organize opposition to Arne Duncan’s policies and No Child Left Behind.
According to NCLB, our schools should have had 100% of students test at proficient levels in reading and math by 2014. No county, no state, and no school district has ever achieved 100% proficiency on standardized tests and, in fact, the way the tests are designed make it statistically impossible to achieve that goal. Washington, like many other states, originally had a waiver in place that would have exempted it from this absurd NCLB mandate. However, when the state legislature refused to pass bills tying teacher evaluations to test scores (following overwhelming evidence that this would not improve teaching or learning), Arne Duncan chose to punish Washington state by revoking the waiver. With the waiver gone, nearly all of Washington’s schools have been labeled failures, we may lose control of millions of dollars in federal money, and some schools will be at risk of state takeovers and mass layoffs of teachers.
This kind of political game-playing has no place in our schools. Our schools and teachers should not be labeled as failures simply because we have rejected extremely flawed education policies. In August 2014, 28 school superintendents from around the state authored a letter criticizing No Child Left Behind and declaring that their schools’ successes are not reflected in these ratings. We agree. It’s time for the voices of parents, teachers and students to be heard and respected.
If you have a story to share about why your school is not a failure, tell us here.
Also, sign our petition to reinstate the NCLB waiver for Washington state.