The kids are (probably) all right
August 20, 2014
Sometime soon, some parents around the area will be getting a pair of letters. One is a federally-mandated notice informing them that their child’s school is failing. The other, likely included in the same envelope, will tell them not to worry about what the first letter says — things are just fine.
The mixed message will undoubtedly confuse some.
This was the year that every child in America was supposed to be at grade-level standards in math and reading, according to the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The idea was well-meaning, but obviously flawed. While pretty much everyone agrees the law needs revisions, revisions mean Congress needs to get involved. Since Congress can barely agree on the color of the sky, it’s unlikely to see any revisions any time soon.
Unfortunately, that’s left room for other agendas. The U.S. Department of Education can use its power to grant or deny a waiver from the law as a cudgel to force education reforms without buy-in from the Legislative branch, which is exactly what it has done.
Washington lost its waiver after resisting these reforms, in particular refusing to use test scores as a portion of teacher evaluations – a position that speaks more of the power of the teachers unions in this state than it does of some sort of states-rights idealism in Olympia.
No reforms means no waiver. No waiver means that Washington’s schools have to tell their parents that the schools are failing. Never mind that schools in other states are probably in the same boat. They played ball with the feds, so they don’t have to send the letters.
Will either letter you receive make any school any better? No, they won’t. Does the letter mean your child isn’t learning? No, it doesn’t. What is the practical impact of all of these power struggles on parents and their children? Nothing. Exactly nothing. Where are the children in this debate? Nowhere.
The very people we’re supposed to not leave behind don’t seem to be factored into the discussion.
Parents should just go with their gut. Most residents probably have a sense of whether or not their child is at a good school, and in Sammamish, they probably are.
The best choice is to ignore both of the letters and write one of your own.
Address it to your public officials at the federal and state levels, and demand that they stop using your children as pawns.