Last year, when Washington State lost its waiver under No Child
Left Behind, South Kitsap School District teachers and
administrators got together to give U.S. Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan a message.
Lip synchingIt came in the form
of a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” — as in all they want
is a little — sung by music teacher Leslie Niemi, karaoke style,
with lively backup from various school officials. Thus, they belted
out their frustration with their schools being labeled as “failing”
under NCLB standards.
Teachers and school officials wiggled their hips and clapped to
the beat. In the video, Superintendent Michelle Reid, usually staid
and suited, cuts loose in a pink feather boa in the video by the
high school’s production crew. Small wonder visitors to the website
Our Kids Our Future made it
third among the site’s top viewed posts from 2014, according to the
Washington State School Directors Association, which does a roundup
of education news from around the state and nation every week.
Others posts on Our Kids Our Future included: “Emerald Ridge grad strikes it big as professional umpire,” “Being included means everything,” and “Put your ‘teacher’ hat on.”
Without question, the website draws an audience sympathetic to the district’s message. Our Kids Our Future‘s “campaign is led by a group of Washington education organizations, including WSSDA. The goal is to highlight excellence in Washington State public schools,” according to its “about us” page. Partners include the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, as well as state associations of school principals, school administrators, the state teachers union, PTAs, school boards and others.
Vested interests aside, pretty much everyone, including members of Congress, agree that NCLB was a good idea but flawed in how it was a carried out. Standards for all students, no exceptions, were ramped up over time until meeting them became all but impossible. In recognition, the federal government allowed a waiver for states whose districts were making “adequate yearly progress” toward the ideal. Washington lost its waiver this year when the Legislature — pressured by teachers and others — declined to support a teacher evaluation program relying on statewide test scores. That meant districts had to inform parents that their schools, some of which had recently earned recognition from the state, were “failing.” Schools that receive federal Title I money and which have been placed in one of five levels of “improvement” have to set aside some of their Title I allocation for parents who want their children transported to a different school or district, or who wanted tutoring outside the failing school.
story we wrote in August, as districts tried to figure out the
implications, I cited a letter Reid wrote to families in which she
called the “fail” label “regressive and punitive.” Clearly, SKSD’s
performance was designed not only to stick it to Arne Duncan — with
a great sense of rhythm, no less — but as a moral boost for the
staff. And for my money, no matter where you stand on NCLB, it’s
always a moral booster to see a school superintendent in a feather
Wonder what they’ll do for an encore.