According to the New York Times, “nearly nine in 10 Washington State public schools, including some high-achieving campuses in the state’s most moneyed communities, have been relegated to a federal blacklist of failure, requiring them to set aside 20 percent of their federal funding for private tutoring or to transport students to schools not on the failing list, if parents wish.” Due to the fact that the State Senate refused pass legislation that would “require teacher evaluations be based in part on student test scores,” Washington State schools “are being held to an outdated benchmark that is all but impossible to achieve.”
That fact has comes as a hard-hitting reality for school administrators, teachers, students and parents at the start of the new school year. Many schools that are now being reprimanded for low performance were, until very recently, praised for their performance and/or improved performance. As expected, the clear disconnect has demoralized teachers, frustrated students and confused parents.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan “said in an interview that Washington State had broken its commitment and had to pay a price.” Well, Washington State school’s—at the expense of our children—are paying that price.
The New York Times reports of an elementary school in Renton that has seen test scores soar with the help of an improvement path created in partnership with the University of Washington. As result of the lost waiver, the elementary school must deviate from its improvement course. The principle now predicts that “the school’s improvement efforts would be hampered” because it has been forced to “set aside federal funds for tutoring and transportation to other schools not yet deemed failing” rather than using the funds to hire an additional math specialist.
In the words of State Senator Steve Litzow, by refusing to use student test scores as an aspect of teacher evaluations, “the adults put their interests above the children.” As SHIFT has pointed out in the past, the Washington Education Association (WEA) has been part of the problem. The state’s largest teachers’ union has consistently placed its interests above children—first by lobbying against legislation that would have avoided the problems now facing schools in our state and, second, by pushing its latest self-benefiting initiative (I-1351).
Secretary Arne Duncan has promised to re-issue a waiver to Washington State if and when the state decides to use test scores for teacher evaluations. A handful of legislators will attempt to re-visit legislation that would meet Duncan’s criteria during the 2015 legislative session.