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 But that waiver was revoked last week.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.