Are schools ‘failing’? Parents respond to letters from school districts

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GRAHAM, Wash. — As the summer break comes to an end, Heather Blakely is preparing to send her children back to school. Several weeks ago, her family received a letter from the Bethel School District notifying them the elementary school does not meet federal standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The letter was stating that the school is failing and we had an option of moving them into a different school,” said Blakely.

The letters were sent out by districts to parents all across the state. Nearly 90% of schools did not meet the federal standards.

In recent years, Washington received a waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind law.  But earlier this year, the state lost that waiver when it refused to change its student testing procedures.  Lawmakers couldn’t agree on a deal to use student scores on state tests as a part of teacher evaluations.  The No Child Left Behind law requires them to be linked.

“This year 100% of students have to be proficient in English language arts and math in order for that school to have made adequate yearly progress and that means not even one student can be anything less than proficient,” said John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District.

Earlier this month, superintendents across the Puget Sound sent out additional letters saying the schools aren’t all failing and they are making progress. The letters called the “failing” label arbitrary and wrong.

On Facebook, one parent wrote, “We have an outstanding school and received the letter. As far as I'm concerned it means nothing.”

"I received a letter and I am sick and tired of our schools not being held accountable,” wrote another parent.  "Let our teachers teach."

Blakely said she’s heard some parents are considering moving their kids to different schools, but overall she’s happy with the schools her kids attend.

"I know my kids are already doing good, so I wasn't worried about it," said Blakely.

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