In 2001, Congress passed a law called No Child Left Behind. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002. It is the worst federal education legislation ever passed. It required that 100% of children in grades 3-8 must be proficient by 2014 or their schools are failing and subject to harsh sanctions. In no nation in the world are 100% of children proficient. This is an impossible goal. Yet many schools have been closed, many educators fired, because they could not do the impossible.
Although NCLB should have been re authorized in 2007, Congress has been unable to agree on how to change it. It should have been scrapped. Accountability should be the job of the states, not the federal government.
Into the stalemate over NCLB stepped our present Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who offered waivers from the 2014 deadline to states that agreed to evaluate their teachers based on their students’ test scores. States lined up to seek waivers. Washington State, however, asked for a waiver but the Legislature refused to evaluate teachers by test scores. Many studies have shown that this a fundamentally flawed way of evaluating teachers. But Duncan stuck to his guns, oblivious to the research. He decreed that Washington State would lose its waiver. That men’s that every school in the state is a failing school and must inform parents that their child attends a failing school.
Educators in Washington State have written a plea to Arne Duncan not to rescind the state’s waiver from what is, in fact, a ridiculous law. They have a petition and invite you to support them by signing it.
Here is their press release:
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, their 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 by 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, where they declared that their schools’ successes are not reflected in these ratings and criticized No Child Left Behind. 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.
Parents Across America (PAA)
Seattle Education Website
Social Equality Educators (SEE)
Wayne Au, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington Bothell*
Jesse Hagopian, Teacher, Garfield High School*
Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member*
Sue Peters, Seattle School Board Director*
Melissa Westbrook, Seattle Schools Community Forum
*For identification purposes only