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Failing schools letters will be sent to local parents

The state of Washington’s unsuccessful federal appeal means most Lower Valley schools will send letters to parents in the next few days announcing that the schools are failing to meet adequate yearly progress.

In the Sunnyside School District, all but Sun Valley Elementary School – a kindergarten-only school - will send letters to parents, says Curtis Campbell, district spokesperson.

The letters are part of the No Child Left Behind Act, requiring schools to send them if their students are not meeting standards in any one of 37 categories, ranging from standardized test scores to graduation rates.

However, Washington schools obtained a waiver about two years ago.

That waiver was lifted this past April after the state legislature failed to pass a law that would tie teacher and principal evaluations to student performance on state tests.

In June, Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn submitted an appeal to the U.S. Department of Education. It was turned down, requiring schools to send letters to parents.

“We anticipated it because of the loss of the waiver,” Campbell said. “We’re disappointed it was denied, especially when you look how far we’ve come.”

He added, “It’s a little disheartening to send out letters to make it seem like we’re failing when we have fantastic staff breaking down barriers, truly making gains.”

The biggest gain of all is in graduation rates, which have more than doubled over the past three years. “To go from one of the lowest to highest graduation rates in the state, our students and staff should be commended,” Campbell said.

Still, the letters must go out, and soon before school starts.

Campbell says the district will be ready.

“Once our staff come back to the building we’ll talk about what the letter means and why it was sent out so they’ll understand how to talk to parents.”

Minerva Morales is superintendent of Mabton schools, and says schools there will learn in the third week of August whether letters need to go out.

If letters home are needed, Mabton schools, too, are ready.

“It is a federal requirement and we will comply accordingly,” Morales says.

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