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In Washington State, Political Stand Puts Schools in a Bind

SEATTLE — Three years ago, Lakeridge Elementary School, where most pupils come from lower-income families, was totally remade. A new principal arrived and replaced half the staff, and she lengthened the school day and year. Working with a $3 million federal grant, the staff collaborated with the University of Washington to train teachers in new instructional techniques. The results were powerful: Test scores soared.

Yet just before school resumed for this fall, Lakeridge learned that it had been declared a failing school under federal education law.

In fact, nearly nine in 10 Washington State public schools, including some high-achieving campuses in the state’s most moneyed communities, have been relegated to a federal blacklist of failure, requiring them to set aside 20 percent of their federal funding for private tutoring or to transport students to schools not on the failing list, if parents wish.