Failing schools? Letters going out to parents in Washington state this week

SEATTLE -- In just a few weeks classes will begin for school kids across Washington state.  And for the first time, most parents will receive letters informing them that their schools are failing.

The assessment letters are a key requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind law.  But many teachers and administrators resent the 'failing' label and are fighting back.

On Wednesday, 28 school district superintendents across the Puget Sound region stood firm to argue that their schools are thriving.  They have signed a letter of their own to parents explaining why they feel the 'failing' label is arbitrary and wrong.

“While we’re not at 100% proficiency for all kids, we are making progress,” said John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District.  “The 2014 federal target is 100%, and that’s unrealistic.”

In recent years, Washington state received a waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind law.  But earlier this year, the state lost that waiver when it refused to change its student testing procedures.  Lawmakers couldn’t agree on a deal to use student scores on state tests as a part of teacher evaluations.  The No Child Left Behind law requires them to be linked.

The 'failing' letter to parents describes how they can choose to send their child to a better-performing school, with transportation costs paid by the school districts.