Larsen: Washington D.C. Education Standards Are Out of Touch with Washington State Schools

Aug 14, 2014 Issues: Education

WASHINGTON— Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today called on Congress to reauthorize and update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as nearly all Washington state schools send letters to parents required by the law indicating that the schools are failing. The U.S. Department of Education revoked Washington state’s waiver from the law, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), meaning schools and student test scores now must be evaluated under those flawed standards.

“On a recent visit to Mountlake Terrace High School, students schooled me about robotics. At a failing school, would I learn from students working to build automatic glove machines, test the aerodynamics of wings, and engage in medical research? Would failing students be winning national recognition for their successes in leadership and technology?

“During a visit to a Marysville school, I learned about converting kinetic energy from an eighth grader analyzing the potential for a mythological creature’s physical movement, part of the school district’s graphic design and animation lab classes that serve 350 students. At a failing school, would hundreds of students be taking classes like these and others in applied math, robotics and mechanics? I have visited schools across my district and I don’t see failure. I see students and teachers innovating in ways that will prepare kids for successful careers in everything from engineering to medicine.

“But most of our state’s schools are in the process of sending letters to parents indicating the schools are failing. These letters in no way reflect a change in the quality of education in Washington state. The requirement to send letters describing schools as ‘failing’ only demonstrates that NCLB’s standards are terribly constructed. These outdated education standards are completely out of touch with Washington state’s schools. These flawed standards for schools must be scrapped and replaced.

“Washington state has put in place concrete goals and a timeline to improve education for all students. These standards create accountability that emphasizes progress by improving outcomes for all students, including those who might face different challenges like students with disabilities, students with learning challenges, or English language learners. Under our system, every school works to increase achievement for each group of students, even those who might struggle. Schools that are meeting or exceeding expectations adjust their goals upward to improve even more.

“Without the waiver our schools will continue to make progress towards these goals, but will be forced to do so under NCLB's undeserved label of failure. Washington state public schools have hardworking students and a strong workforce of dedicated teachers and administrators. Congress is failing them by not reauthorizing and updating the Elementary and Secondary Education Act so it works for students, teachers, and schools.

“Federal law should promote innovation like the robotics and aerospace projects I’ve seen in our classrooms. Washington state’s experience shows that it is imperative for Congress to act, to support efforts like our state’s that are challenging students and preparing them for college and careers, ” Larsen said.

Larsen and other members of the Washington state Congressional delegation asked the Department of Education in June to waive the letter requirement.

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