Vermont's heroic response shows the way on No Child Left Behind letters
I posted the Vermont letter a couple of days ago with little comment--other than a general "Hurrah!" Here, a Washington Institute puts it in context and explains why other states should go forth and do likewise.
Vermont's schools are doing just fine without the waiver. But under federal rules, they still have to send the letter to parents explaining that their child's school is, under the absurd No Child Left Behind rules, "failing."
Vermont could have hung their heads in shame. Instead, they took the requirement as an opportunity to defend holistic public education and attack Duncan's test-obsessed policies. Vermont's letter was published this week and it is a remarkable, even inspiring document that Washington should immediately follow.
Here's how Vermont opens their letter, immediately reframing the issue and putting Duncan and his absurd rules on the defensive:
By opening the letter this way, Vermont demonstrates the absurdity of calling their schools failures. They cite a broad range of data, beyond just test scores, to show that the stateĂ˘€™s schools are doing well by Vermont's children.
But that was just the warmup. The heart of the letter, in the three paragraphs quoted below, is a resounding endorsement of progressive education values, and a devastating criticism of the focus on standardized tests that has been a hallmark of Duncan's tenure at the U.S. Department of Education:
The letter goes on to lay out a series of questions that parents should ask to determine whether their school is a "success" or a "failure." Rather than solely focusing on test scores, the questions instead focus on more sensible and useful issues, such as whether students are growing intellectually, gaining proficiency and new skills, and whether they enjoy going to school.
Vermont is charting a better, more sensible course in improving our public schools. The Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has a chance to follow suit and use the mandated letters to parents to explain why the legislature was right to reject Duncan's demands. More importantly, he can use the opportunity to lay out a more holistic, sensible, and effective vision for our schools that go well beyond test scores and punishments.
It's time for Washington State to step up and lead the way out of the testing morass and toward great schools for all our children.
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