Letters to parents say schools are 'failing'

by: Natasha Chen Updated:


KENT -- Many parents with public school children across Washington will get letters in the coming weeks, saying their schools are not meeting adequate yearly progress and failing under federal standards.

The standard for the federal No Child Left Behind policy requires 100 percent of students to perform at grade level by 2014, a standard which the vast majority of schools in Washington have not achieved.

Q: Why aren’t the students performing at grade level?

A: The policy requires every student, even those who are learning English as a second language or who have special needs, to perform at grade level by 2014. Many educators and politicians alike have said this is an unrealistic goal.

Q: What can I do if I receive this letter?

A: Parents can choose to send their child to a school that is meeting federal standards, but there are few schools that do. Parents can also choose to work with private tutoring companies, paid for with federal dollars.

Q: My child’s school has excellent graduation and test results. Why is it considered failing?

A: The adequate yearly progress measurement is only one way of measuring success. It is, however, the way success is measured under No Child Left Behind. So not meeting “adequate yearly progress” means the school is failing the NCLB standard.

Q: If hardly any school is meeting this standard, why are only some schools sending these letters?

A: Only Title I schools are required to send the letters to parents. By the end of August, there will be a published list of all schools failing to meet the standard. It is anticipated that most schools in the state will be listed.

Q: Does this affect my child’s programs?

A: For students attending Title I schools, 20 percent of Title I funds will now have to be put toward trasnporting students to another school of choice, or toward third-party, private tutoring services. That may mean programs previously paid for by these funds will be in jeopardy.

Q: Will teachers or school districts face penalties?

A: Individual teachers will not be affected. School districts that receive Title I funding for low-income or struggling students now have to use 20 percent of that money to transport students to another school of choice, or to pay for third-party, private tutoring services. Previously, this money was used to fund different preschools or afterschool programs, which now may be at risk of ending.


Washington State was previously given a waiver to be flexible with No Child Left Behind. The waiver was revoked this year.

While most states in the country have a waiver, eight states now must comply with the federal standard.

The U.S. Department of Education said that of those eight states, it is unlikely that any state has 100 percent proficiency in all its schools. However, a spokesperson said there are other ways schools can meet the requirements.

A school can decrease the percentage of students who are not proficient by 10 percent from the prior year.

“We recognize that it is challenging to revert from flexibility back to the requirements of the prescriptive, one-size-fits-all mandates of the No Child Left Behind law,” Dorie Nolt, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, said. “Flexibility has allowed states to move beyond federal law, to be more innovative, and to engage in continued improvement in ways that benefit educators and students, which is why the governor and state superintendent, as well as other leaders in Washington, made such an effort to retain that flexibility.

“We will continue to work with state leaders through this transition to help Washington preserve the gains it has made under the last two years of flexibility from the law.”

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