Parents with children at Chautauqua Elementary School will receive letters this week informing them that their child is attending a “failing” school, a result of the state losing its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The letter from Chautauqua Principal Jody Metzger, along with a cover letter from Michael Soltman, superintendent of the Vashon Island School District, informs parents that the school didn’t meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks put forth by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and is now labeled as failing because less than 100 percent of students passed state tests in reading and math.
For years Washington schools have not been required to inform families of their AYP standing. However, earlier this year the state lost its NCLB waiver after lawmakers refused to enact a new federal mandate that student test scores be used in teacher evaluations, a requirement to keep the waiver.
Since then, school administrators around the state, as well as the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, have spoken out against NCLB, calling the required letters useless and unfair. They have argued that a 100-percent passage rate for state testing is an unrealistic requirement and nearly every school in the state is considered failing under the law.
On Vashon, Soltman agreed, calling the approximately 400 letters mailed on Friday a “meaningless and ridiculous exercise” that he worries will confuse families. McMurray Middle School and Vashon High School are not required to send out letters because they do not receive federal Title 1 funding.
“What this is really about is an argument at the policy level, the state and federal policy level,” Soltman said. “I think it’s a tragedy when irresponsible legislation creates doubt and questions about the quality of education in our school district.”
Metzger, the Chautauqua principal, echoed the same thing in her three-page letter to parents.
“Because Congress can’t agree about how to fix this failed policy, our kids are once again caught in a system of requirements that fall short of supporting real learning,” she wrote.
The letter goes on to explain that because it didn’t meet AYP benchmarks, Chautauqua is also required to revise its school improvement plan, receive added support from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and to encourage parental involvement. Metzger emphasized that Chautauqua was taking the same steps to improve student learning before the state lost its NCLB waiver.
Chautauqua is also required to inform parents that they can choose to send their child to a neighboring school that is meeting AYP, with transportation covered by the district.
Soltman said school districts in Tacoma and Seattle are not accepting new students under such circumstances, but one elementary school in the South Kitsap School District is. The district is required to cover students’ transportation there should they choose to transfer, using some of its $140,000 in Title 1 funding, but Soltman said he doesn’t believe any parents will go that route.
“Ironically, we have about four kids commuting from South Kitsap to here,” he said.