‘We have a message for you, Secretary Arne Duncan’

South Kitsap School District staff sending message to Arne Duncan (Screen shot from YouTube video)
South Kitsap School District staff sending message to Arne Duncan (Screen shot from YouTube video)

(Update:Problem with online video)

Earlier this year, Washington became the first state to lose its waiver from the most onerous parts of No Child Left Behind, flexibility that the U.S. Education Department had granted to a number of states that promised to implement specific school reforms acceptable to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The reason given by the department was that the Washington legislature had failed to pass a law linking teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores, a highly controversial assessment method embraced by Duncan’s shop.

(Oklahoma, incidentally, this week became the second state to lose its waiver but for a different reason: it had pulled out of the Common Core State Standards without adopting a set of standards that the department sees as “college- and career-ready.”)

Because it lost its NCLB waiver, Washington now must comply with all parts of No Child Left Behind, a law widely seen as fundamentally flawed, with its performance goals — which called for nearly all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014 — literally impossible to achieve.  But now the state has to deal with the consequences of failing to reach impossible goals. Under NCLB, virtually all of the state’s public schools are seen as failing, and superintendents around the state have been sending letters to parents explaining why their children’s schools are being classified that way.

Staff working in the 10,000-student South Kitsap School District decided not to take this turn of events quietly. They found a way to send a rather unusual message to Duncan. Superintendent Michelle Reid is standing on an athletic field with teachers and district staff — with an audience of staffers looking on — and gives a speech which says in part:

“We do not need to be monitored. We need to be trusted and respected … We have a message for you, Secretary Arne Duncan. We both deserve and expect respect for all that we do each day.”

Then staff and teachers sing and dance to a rousing version of  the famous song “Respect,” with people holding up signs spelling out the word “respect.”

Here’s the video on YouTube, but, alas, it no longer seems to be working. I’ll find out why and fix it.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · August 28