Editorial — The kids are (probably) all right
August 19, 2014
Sometime soon, some area parents will get a pair of letters. One is a federally mandated notice informing them 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.
Here we are: 2014 was the year that every child in America was supposed to be at grade level standard 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 revisions any time soon.
Unfortunately, that has left room for other agendas. The U.S. Dept. 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.
The state of Washington lost its waiver after resisting those reforms, in particular refusing to use test scores as a portion of teacher evaluations — a position that speaks more of the power of the teacher’s union in this state than it does of some sort of idealism in Olympia.
No reforms mean no waiver. No waiver means Washington state schools have to tell 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, it won’t. Does the letter mean your children aren’t learning? No, it doesn’t. What is the practical meaning of all of these power struggles for parents and their children? 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 the Issaquah School District, they probably are.
The best choice is to ignore both 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.