Editorial: Teachers, Dems at fault for waiver loss

April 30, 2014

By Editorial Board

The impacts of the state losing its No Child Left Behind waiver are unlikely to be profound locally, but they are still an embarrassment — an embarrassment that could easily have been avoided.

Washington, along with 42 other states, was operating under a waiver that allows the state to essentially ignore some portions of the federal law. But that waiver was revoked last week.

The whole system is so complicated that our Snoqualmie Valley School District may not know for several months the impact — if any. No Child Left Behind money is based on Title 1 guidelines determined by how many students receive free or reduced-price lunches. Because of boundary changes this school year, the district has been recalculating which schools qualify.

We are in this mess because the state teacher’s union, and Democrat members of the Legislature, was unwilling to allow test scores to be a factor in teacher evaluations.

Both groups point to the federal No Child Left Behind law as a failure, and say that it is at fault.

They’re not entirely wrong. No Child Left Behind mandates that as of this year 100 percent of students must meet their grade-level standard in reading and math, and prove they can by passing a test.

It doesn’t take an expert in testing theory to realize this is foolish. If everyone passes a test, then the test is too easy. Some people are just on the left side of the bell curve. Certainly, schools have an obligation to try and educate lower-performing students to their full potential. However, it serves no one to pretend that all people have the same potential — some people are just smarter, while others … aren’t.

But focusing on the failings of the underlying law deflects the blame. Whether or not the carrot of waivers and the stick of No Child Left Behind is a good system, that’s the system we are working under.

Now, because of the intractability of the union and the members of the Legislature who follow their lead, school districts will have to spend money on federally mandated fixes, instead of being able to tailor solutions to problems of each district.

Teacher’s unions have resisted using test scores for years, saying they are not a fair way to measure a teacher’s skill.

But dozens of other states, including some with Democrat-controlled Legislatures, have found ways to implement a teacher evaluation system that meets federal muster.

Washington needs to do the same.


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2 Responses to “Editorial: Teachers, Dems at fault for waiver loss”

  1. David Spring M. Ed. on May 6th, 2014 12:56 pm

    Teachers Deserve Fairness
    On April 30 2014, the SnoValley Star posted an editorial condemning the Teachers Union for opposing Arne Duncan’s demand that our State adopt mandatory evaluation of teachers using high stakes tests of their students. The editorial claimed that if 41 other States caved to Arne Duncan’s blackmail, then so should we. By this logic, if 41 other States decided to throw their kids and teachers off of a cliff, then should we also?
    Diane Ravitch has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. She is one of our nation’s leading educational researchers. Here is what she has to say about using high stakes testing to fire teachers:
    “No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable.”
    The problem with using high stakes tests to evaluate teachers is that the tests are extremely unreliable. Typically, teachers rated as being in the top third of all teachers one year are in the bottom third the next year. The tests are no better than a coin toss. If this system were adopted in our State, you can be rated Teacher of the Year one year and be out of a job the next. Imagine firing reporters or doctors just over the flip of a coin. Heads you stay. Tails you go. Our students and teachers deserve an evaluation system that is fair and accurate. That is why the Teachers Union opposed caving in to Arne Duncan. They were opposing throwing our kids and our schools off of a cliff. I congratulate the teachers for opposing this injustice, protecting our kids and having the courage to stand up to Arne Duncan.
    David Spring M. Ed.
    Parent, North Bend and Candidate for the Washington State Legislature, 5th LD East King County

  2. Linda Grez on May 7th, 2014 10:22 am

    What a simplistic, incorrect, partisan-pandering editorial! It’s clear that the No Child Left Behind Act is fundamentally flawed and leads to many bad outcomes, including the destruction of well-operating schools. The problems in education in our state are complex and made worse by a lack of adequate funding, hence the McCleary Court decision. The situation is not made any better by oversimplifying it.

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