Going Back to No Child Left Behind: What Parents Need to Know

Legislation | 07/31/2014

Cinzia Lettieri
Former Intern

Cinzia is a recent graduate of the University of Washington's Master of Education in Education Policy program.

Welcome back No Child Left Behind!

Until recently, you’ve been on a nice long vacation from our public schools, but now you’re back!  

If your memory about NCLB is a little rusty here’s a refresher. President Bush signed NCLB into law on June 14, 2001. The intention of the law was to set high standards for public school students with measurable goals. Assessing students through statewide testing became the norm.

The ultimate goal of NCLB was to close the growing achievement gap in our public school systems and to better serve disadvantaged students. The hope was that by 2014 all students across the country would pass statewide assessments proficient in reading and math. Shortly after its passage it became clear that the plan laid out by NCLB was unrealistic and unpractical.

Good Intentions Don’t Always Lead to Good Results…

I think we can agree that policies have good intentions. I think NCLB did have great intentions. Who wouldn’t want America’s students to be 100% proficient in math and reading? Who wouldn’t want students who face inequities and disadvantages to receive help?

However, good intentions don’t always mean good results. Under NCLB schools are expected to reach a certain level of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for student academic achievement. The problem is in the way in which AYP is measured. More often than not it is not an accurate way of showing whether a school is succeeding or failing. For example, if the state of Washington was to release which schools were currently reaching AYP all schools would be considered failing in the state, from Bellevue, to Seattle, to Spokane, to Tacoma. This is a problem. This is what my 11-year-old niece Alyssa would call an “epic failure.”

While there are problems that desperately need to be fixed within our state’s public school system it is hard to believe that not a single school or district is getting it right in the state of Washington, which is why NCLB is a questionable way of measuring student achievement.

To make the situation worse, when a school doesn’t reach AYP goals two years in a row the solution is to punish schools by taking away funding and making the school use most of their Title I funding on restructuring instead of programs to improve student learning or extra supports for the classroom or students with special needs.

Renton School District is one example of how losing the waiver will affect their budget. Each school in the district will have a smaller budget to use on their building-based Title I school-wide plan. The district now faces the loss of extended learning opportunities for their students in after school and summer programming. 

Back So Soon NCLB?

If you are a parent you probably want to know what happened. Scratch that, if you are a parent you should definitely want to know what happened. Heck, I’m not even a parent and I want to know. Why? Because there is not a single public school district in WA state that is not going to affected by the return of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Don’t you want to know what type of students this state is going to produce now that NCLB is back in action? How districts are going to prepare students for the 25,000+ vacant STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs in this state. Moreover, are students going to be prepared to get into college?

So, why is NCLB back in the state of Washington? Well….Washington received a waiver from NCLB from the federal government, based on a promise Washington made with the U.S. Department of Education.

One of the promises was to include student scores on state tests as only one factor among many in teacher evaluations. So to be clear, we’re not talking about evaluating teachers only on student test scores -- just a portion. But our state legislators never made the simple, one-word change to state law: from “may” to must.”

Unfortunately, the Bill that would have changed the law’s language (Senate Bill 5246) failed to pass in February of 2014. When the U.S. Department of Education found out that WA did not fulfill its waiver agreement the waiver was taken away and NCLB was put back in place.

So You Lost Your Waiver Washington…Now What?

Washington is the first state out of 43 to lose its waiver. Losing the waiver means Washington Public School Districts will now lose control of around $40 million dollars. The federal government has mandated that Washington reallocate around $40 million dollars to private educational services. 

What Your Child May Be Entitled To

Under NCLB all schools must notify all parents whose child attends a school that did not make AYP. Since the ENTIRE state has failed to reach AYP, a lot of letters will be heading out to parents two weeks prior to the start to the new school year. The letters will inform the parents that their child is enrolled at a school that has failed to reach adequate yearly progress and explain options available to parents in light of the school’s “failing” status including supplemental Educational Services (SES) and transportation to stronger schools.

Supplemental Educational Services

Now that NCLB is back, school districts around the state will lose control of around $40 million in flexible Title I dollars.

Parents may be wondering: “Where will this money go?” Most of the money will go to Supplemental Educational Services (SES).

In short, SES are free and extra academic supports for low-income students who attend a Title I school. This includes tutoring and extra help in reading, language arts, and math.

Students can use these private services before or after school, or in the summer. Parents will be notified and provided a list of SES by the district if their child qualifies. Parents are allowed to pick the SES that they feel is best for their child in helping them learn. Parents, schools, and SES groups will have to enter into a contract after asking for services.

While the support from SES groups can be helpful, SES help is only provided to a specific group of students (low-income in a Title I school). With the waiver, all students in a Title I school benefited from the Title I dollar school-wide programs the funds paid for.  Some students may not be low-income, but could be at a Title I school and need extra help. Under NCLB, these students will no longer be able to receive SES.

Transfer to a Stronger School

Under NCLB, parents must receive a letter from the child’s school notifying them that their school has not met 100% proficiency in mathematics and reading set by the federal government.

If you are a parent who receives this letter, you have the choice to send your child to a school that has met the academic benchmarks. Transportation to a different school will be paid for by the school district, which has money set aside for transportation services.

Parents should know that under NCLB all schools in Washington, except for a small handful are expected to receive a “failing” grade, so it will be difficult to find a “passing” school, and unlikely that sending your child to a different school will be any better or worse than the one they already attend. 

How Will My Child’s School District be Affected?

Each district will lose control of about 20% of its budget to SES and 10% to Professional Development (PD). Each district will decide what to cut and where.

Here are some examples:

  • Seattle Public Schools are allocated $10 million dollars and will lose control of more than $3 million dollars between SES and PD. Seattle has found a way to keep its programs, but they will not be able to grow certain programs that have helped students learn and grow over the past three years.
  • Kennewick School District will have to decrease the amount of Extended Day offerings, Parent Outreach and summer school.
  • Highline District will have to eliminate up to 13 positions in the district.

For more information about a specific WA school district and how to contact a district go to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website.

Understanding Title I, Priority and Focus Schools

NCLB gives funding to schools identified as Title I. Title I schools are identified based on the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch. If 40% or more of the school’s students participate in free or reduced lunch programs the school is considered a Title I school.

Most parents in WA are used to their child’s schools being identified as Priority or Focus schools (these schools are identified based on statewide student assessment scores). For parents worried that these schools will no longer receive the funding they need, you need not worry. Almost all WA Priority and Focus schools in the state are also Title I schools, which means that they will still receive federal dollars.

For More Information:

The following links will provide you with further information and changes happening as the 2014-15 school year approaches.

For help finding a Supplemental Educational Services please contact your local school district. A list of providers will available on OSPI’s Webmaster on August 8, 2014.

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  • This is an excellent article, and very much thought went into it. Brings up the whole concept of our children, and why no child should be left behind, unfortunitly some are. The money allotted for the schools is a necessity that is all too soon lowered bit by bit, when it should be risen each year, as time changes many things.

    August 12, 2014 6:50 AM

  • Just received our letter in the mail today and it was more than a bit distressing. Thank you for this article!!! After quite some time tonight researching "AYP" and "Step 4" of "improvement status" (yikes!!), this is the best article I've read tonight. While I don't think we'll move our child from our school (we were able to get her a spot in a dual language immersion program), our neighborhood "home" school turns out to be the "choice school" which of course is making me second guess our decision. Thanks again for the superb, well-researched, and easy-to-understand (for us parents) article.

    August 16, 2014 11:14 PM