UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 22, 2008

LOCAL HEROES: SEATTLE TEACHER SUSPENDED FOR REFUSING TO GIVE STANDARDIZED TEST

PARENT EMPOWERMENT NETWORK Carl Chew, a 6th grade science teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School in the Seattle School District, last week defied federal, state, and district regulations that require teachers to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to students.

"I have let my administration know that I will no longer give the WASL to my students. I have done this because of the personal moral and ethical conviction that the WASL is harmful to students, teachers, schools, and families," wrote Chew in an email to national supporters.

School District response to Mr. Chew's refusal was immediate. After administrative attempts to dissuade his act of civil disobedience had failed, at the start of school on the first day of WASL testing, April 15, Mr. Chew was escorted from the school by the building principal and a district supervisor. Mr. Chew was told to report to the district Science Materials Center where he was put to work preparing student science kits while district administration and attorneys consulted on an appropriate penalty for what was labeled, "gross insubordination."

Mr. Chew attended one hearing at Seattle School District Office, where he was accompanied by a Seattle Education Association representative. On Friday, April 18, Mr. Chew received a letter from Seattle School District Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson which began, "This letter is to inform you that I have determined that there is probable cause to suspend you from April 21, 2008 through May 2, 2008 without pay for your refusal and insubordination to your principal's written direction to administer the WASL at Eckstein Middle School."

During his weeklong struggle with the district over consequences, Mr. Chew was supported by allies throughout the state and nation. "Carl Chew is saying 'No!' to high stakes testing and a resounding 'Yes!' to student needs and to teacher professionalism," stated nationally renowned education activist and author Susan Ohanian of Vermont.

"There are many more teachers who are ready to follow suit. They just need an example and leader," states one Washington teacher.

Organizations and individual allies are now working to replace Mr. Chew's lost wages. "Though a minor gesture in response to your so much larger gift, I plan to contribute to your salary for the two-weeks the schools aren't paying," was the response of one colleague from Washington.

CARL CHEW On April 15 I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my 6th grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.

It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year. . .

To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image, and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem, and sadness for our children.

o It is written in the language of white, middle and upper class students, leaving all others behind.

o It is presented to children in a secretive, cold, sterile, and inhumane fashion.

o There is no middle ground--children either pass or fail--which leaves them confused, guilty, and frustrated.

o Numerous questions on the test are unclear, misleading, or lacking in creativity.

o It tests a very narrow definition of what educators know children need to become well-rounded human beings.

o The WASL is given at a prescribed time regardless of a child's emotional or physical health.

o A majority of teachers loath the WASL but feel unable to speak out freely against it due to their fears of negative consequences for doing so.

o Because administrators are constantly pushing to meet federal guidelines for yearly score improvements, their relationships with teachers can become strained and unpleasant.

o Administrators and teachers suffer under the knowledge that if they do not achieve improvement goals (measured by WASL passage alone) they can be sent to retraining classes, lose their students to other schools, or have their "failing" school handed over to a private company.

o Before administering the WASL teachers mandatorily sign a "loyalty" oath promising they will not read any of the test questions.

o Teachers feel devalued by the amount of time most of them have to devote to test practice and proctoring--upwards of four weeks for actual testing and many more weeks for WASL prep in many cases.

o Teachers feel used and depressed when, half a year after the test is given, they are presented with dubious WASL results--amateurish and misleading Power Point charts and graphs telling them next to nothing about their students' real knowledge and talents.

o Teachers' relationships with parents are compromised because they cannot talk freely with them about opting their child out or other WASL concerns.

o Parents have been shut out of this costly process.

o Most of them are misled by official statements about what the purpose of the WASL is.

o Many of them do not realize that they have the right to opt their children out of testing with no consequences, though in practice schools have illegally put inappropriate pressure on parents and children who have opted out.

o Many of them do not realize that teachers are, in many cases, not allowed to discuss any reasons why they might want to opt their child out. (Teachers in California went to court to secure the right to inform parents of their right to opt their children out of that state's testing.)

o Like children, parents suffer from the same feelings of guilt and unhappiness when their children fail.

o Parents are not informed that the test is biased, culturally insensitive and irrelevant, and not a real measure of anything.

o The WASL graduation requirement has kept thousands of families from knowing whether or not their students will be allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies and celebrations--the culminating reward for 13 years of public school attendance and achievement-- with friends and families.

o While schools are generally underfunded, Washington will spend a projected $56 million in 2009 to have a private corporation grade WASL tests. These tax dollars are needed right in our schools providing more teachers, smaller classes, tutors, and diverse educational experiences for our students.

o While the federal government requires that school districts use high stakes testing to qualify for federal dollars, tests are not fully funded by the federal government.

o WASL is one of the most difficult tests used to fulfill the federal requirements, with one of the highest failure rates.

o Instead of safe, exciting, and meaningful places for our children to spend half of their waking hours, schools have become WASL or test mills bent on churning out students who are trained to answer state-approved questions in a state-approved manner.

o Most, if not all, teachers will agree that assessment is vital. Wise teachers know that assessments which are also learning experiences for students and teachers are the best. The WASL categorically is not a learning experience.

o I believe that individual students are entitled to their own learning plans, tailored to their own needs, strengths, and interests. Teachers know it is definitely possible to do this in the context of a public school. The WASL categorically treats all children alike and requires that they each fit into the same precise mold, and state-mandated learning plans based on WASL scores fail to recognize individual strengths of students.

o Passing the WASL does not guarantee success in college, placement in a job, a living wage, or adequate health care.

o WASL will decrease the high school graduation rate. Thousands of students who have completed all other requirements and passed all required classes will be denied diplomas because of WASL failure.

o High-stakes testing has not proven beneficial to students, teachers, schools, or communities.

o When I was a teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle, a number of my students received their WASL scores to find that they had "failed". When I looked at the notices being sent to their parents I saw that each student had come to within just a few points of actually passing and that their scores were well within the grey area, or "margin of error," for the test. The "test scientists" aren't sure whether the student passed or failed, yet the school tells the student he or she failed. These students cried when they saw the results.

o When I first started teaching, Graham Hill could afford Americorps tutors, numerous classroom aides, and had money for fieldtrip buses and ample supplies. By the time I stopped teaching there, Americorps was gone, there were no classroom aides except for parent volunteers, and everything else was in short supply. . .

o No one ever asked me or any of the teachers I know whether high stakes testing was a good idea. In fact, we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops to prove our worthiness to be professional, certificated educators. Public school teachers are responsible for the educational lives of over a million students in Washington State, yet, in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care.

44 Comments:

Blogger DAWN MARIE said...

I applaud your conviction, determination, and strength in coming forward and standing your ground. Standardized testing is a highly contestable issue; from mandatory state assessment testing through the GRE's; they fail to adequately represent the scholastic capabilities of the student.

As a Masters student at Villanova, I can relate a short anecdote: Throughout my entire academic career, I have always maintained a 3.7 GPA. I graduated Cum Laude from Rosemont College and decided to pursue law school. After much studying, loss of sleep, copious amounts of stress, a weekend Kaplan study seminar, and endless hours of practice-testing, I tested for the GRE's which resulted in a respectable, though average score.

I called Drexel Law to ask what their requirements for admittance were. I was told that unless I had a score of 160, the difference of four questions on my score, they would not even consider me as a candidate, despite my academic achievements. In fact, I was told that they decided their candidates primarily on the numbers, not the achievements.

This was not the only law school that had such requirements. After feeling remarkably dejected, I took the GREs instead to try my hand at graduate school. I again scored lower in the standardized testing, but Villanova decided to admit me based on my academic achievements, not on the GRE score alone.

The moral is this: standardized testing does indeed a severe amount of stress and tension in every student; whether a child of eight or twelve, taking mandatory state assessment tests, or an adult taking LSAT's and GRE's, the feeling of dread and misery never leave. One is always faced with pressures to succeed, and the fear of failing is overwhelming.

As Carl Chew pointed out, there are better methods to "test" the aptitude of students, as we are individuals and do not all perform in the same manner of one another. They just require more thought, creativity and time to develop theses measures.

I am proud to see a teacher stand up for his own moral conviction and to take a stand in what he believes in: the abilities of his students, his colleagues and his school district to perform their job and be successful at it--and that is to teach.

April 23, 2008 10:01 AM  
Blogger Mr. Congo Jack said...

I applaud Mr. Chew. I am surprised that the tests are being "graded" by private corporations. Standardized testing has turned American schools, which should be training students to be citizens of this great nation and giving them enough knowledge to do well or prosper in the Information age, into factories that churn out students who don't know how to do anything but fill in bubbles on an answer sheet.

April 23, 2008 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is terrible! I hope this WASL test is dismantled.

April 23, 2008 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

We need more teachers like you in out school district's.

Thank you.

April 23, 2008 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Pedagogy Uber Alles said...

Too much testing, too little instructional time. Too much bias in the tests, too little thought about what the alternatives are.

Glad there's a 'chew-ish' teacher there!

April 23, 2008 4:51 PM  
Anonymous M. Jagalla, from MI said...

Congratulations! I retired from teaching after 31 yrs. because I couldn't take the stress and conflict. We have so many objectives to teach (many that are not developmentally correct) so that we can meet the demands of No Child Left Behind and state testing. We are only allowed to give elementary students 20 min. of recess for the entire day and a 30 min. lunch eating in the gym.
So much of education now goes against my beliefs and knowledge. If I were younger, I'd loved to take your action. I still love children and volunteer 2 full days a week to help other teachers and kids.

April 24, 2008 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this is precisly the intent of public education in America. It actually isn't an education system it's a training system. As we move into a facist society based on corporate feudalism the owners of this country will need a compliant worker class and a compliant warrior class to maintain perpetual war without question. Public schools today with "zero tolerance" policies, "lockdowns" and standard testing are training kids for unquestioning obedience to the state. This is what no child left behind is all about creating obedinent tools of the state. Why do you think so many peole home school and why do you think a judge in California has recently all but outlawed it..

Fred in Boston

April 24, 2008 2:25 PM  
Blogger squeeko said...

Thank you for standing up.This is one of several reasons why my wife and I chose to homeschool our kids. The main reason is that the US school system is only interested in making "zombies" that just go along to get along, getting ahead by kissing "---" and joining the "right" group or associations. I respect the teachers like yourself who are really wanting to make a difference. If there were more teachers like you I would consider letting my kids attend the school.

Thanks again for taking a stand and I hope that other teachers follow your example....

April 24, 2008 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations! The reason I started homeschooling my two sons is that education in the US today has gone so far downhill. I watched my eldest go to gov't. schools K-3 and decided that what is happening in the schools today is not an education but an indoctrination. Kids are taught to look clever but to not know anything, especially how to think. Yet they do know about being politically correct.
In 1900 there were no principals in US schools. Now the administrators outnumber the teachers. And yet, with all this manpower, all this supposed ability, they constantly cry "victim", there is nothing they can do about the fact that American children continually, year-by-year, spend more hours in class and doing moe homework, yet they get dumber and dumber. The NAS did a survey a couple years back and found that the average college senior of today knows less than the average high school senior of fifty years ago.
Congratulations to you, Mr. Chew, if there were more teachers like you maybe I would trust the US education system to do an acceptable job educating my sons.

April 24, 2008 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a first, for me:
To find an educator, who cares about people!
KUDOS to you.

When I took all the tests, including the LSAT, and the Bar Exam, I noticed that the pressure was greater than the test.

In fact, the Bar exam, which is much feared, was fun, silly, lively and more like a game. Nobody tells you to enjoy a test, but to test well, you really have to view it as a joke, and fore go all the stress.

I learned this, by accident, when I was in elementary school: Find the PATTERN and follow it. Any multiple choice test has a pattern.
They can't help themselves, so find it and get done faster.
You will score high. In fact, if you can find the pattern, your teachers will respect you, for testing so well.
It's a joke, as are their questions.

Everyone should just say "NO" to taking these tests seriously.

As an aside to the comment regarding the law schools' admissions policies: If you know someone, or you hang around the Admissions office, everyday for a few weeks, they will let you in, out of pity.
Don't take NO for an answer, and stop following the rules. The rules were made to stop other people from getting to their goals.

Don't worry so much about tests.
They are valueless and easily forgotten....much like a video game.

April 24, 2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of higher education:
Did you all hear that school loans are getting hard to find?

Pretty soon, those who don't have cash, will not go to college, and especially not to higher education, and professional degrees. Doctors will become harder to find. Lawyers will dwindle. Professors will be out of work.

The tuition of higher education has been rising to the point of the absurd. This is all planned.
They are dumbing down the US population, so that we are easier to control. These tests help organize their brainwashing techniques.

April 24, 2008 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred in Boston -
Hitting the nail on the proverbial head! Folks..get your children back home, take the financial hit, and teach them to be curious problem solvers with critical thinking skills. We're going to need them badly if we are to re-establish our principles and doctrine against the 'new world order' of old world enemies.

April 24, 2008 6:02 PM  
Blogger Atrus said...

Well put! As a product of the public education system, I have seen most (if not all) of the complaints mentioned.

Homeschooling, as mentioned in the previous post, is extremely productive. My parents decided to pull me out of elementary school at a time when homeschooling was still quite unpopular. I was able to develop in areas where I struggled, and I maintained and improved in areas where I excelled. Simply put, it allowed for a closely-tailored educational environment.

In high school, I was amazed at how my teachers defied almost all stereotypes. My high school experience was most excellent; this was mostly because of my teachers.

This is a bold and necessary action.

April 24, 2008 6:28 PM  
Blogger Jungle Jane said...

IT was absolutely positively inspring when reading this, to learn (pardon the pun) of the honor by this man, and to FEEL it through my body! thank you Mr. Chew for being able to put your noble values into action even at the hurtful cost of giving up what you love, what you worked for your whole life, giving up something you loved and sacrifycing your income to just stop some of the madness spun out by the federal Government of the United States. Hallelujah,

April 24, 2008 7:35 PM  
Blogger Luckymom said...

The arguments for homeschooling are enumerable; this is certainly one of them. We homeschool our children and have found that it is rewarding for our whole family.

We still participate in the Stanford achievement test at out cover school, but there is never any pressure when taking the test. Also, because we pay for the test, we get to see ALL of the result data. I shared my daughter's result profile with a close friend who is a teacher and she said that the state doesn't even give the teachers as much information on the scores as we received and the parents of her students get even less feedback.

If you are thinking about homeschooling, go to the library or bookstore and read-up. Educating a child is not some mystical thing that only a certified teacher can do. There are lesson packages and boxed curriculum that are very easy to teach with. Don't be afraid to take your kids back from the state.

April 24, 2008 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there are one million students in Washington and there are 12 grades and we are talking about the sixth grade...hmmm....thats 83,000 sixth graders. Lets round that up to 100k for simplicity shall we? The state is paying 59 MILLION to grade 100 THOUSAND tests?. That comes out to...FIVE HUNDRED NINETY DOLLARS A TEST!
WHere do I get a job grading tests? I could do it for a lot less.Where the HELL is the Seattle Post Intelligencer on this scandalous total waste of funds. I wonder how the contract was awarded and how much of the loot was KICKED BACK to educrats?
Ah well what could you expect from a press that tells you 19 Arabs brought down WTC 1, 2, AND 7 on Sep 11 2001.

April 24, 2008 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I understand your frustration and appreciate your need to do what you believe is right I feel I have to respectful disagree with you on high stakes testing.
As a seventh grade history teacher I hear your frustrations; but at the same time I feel that we as educators need to hold ourselves to the highest standards because of the importance of the job we hold. As such, I believe we should indeed feel the need to prove ourselves every year and high stakes testing is one way to accomplish that.
Also, I believe these high stakes test are a very valid way of evaluating student learning if we are testing on the correct material. In other words there is nothing wrong to "teaching to the test" if what is on the test is material students in a given grade should know. To do this, i agree that we need to make test more culturally balanced, "kid friendly" and have a serious review by top educators on exactly what we should be testing our students on.
Lastly, I do agree with you that these test should not be the be all and end all in terms of if a student is promoted to the next grade or not. However, they should definitely be considered as a significant piece of that puzzle. In all, I do agree these standardized test do have faults in both content and administration; however with our education system continuing to fall behind other developed and developing nations we should not relax our standards but perform a serious review and revision of these test.

April 24, 2008 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mr. chew~ from orange county, california
you are my new hero. my kids are not going to their own classes this week to take this so called state testing this week and i had the same feeling as you do. they are totally wasting their time and under so much pressure to do well, for what?
it is bad enough that kids these days don't learn more of the valuable lessons such as ethic, moral but to be dehumanize by doing this numbering factor?
please let us help these children to grow up not to mold them into some kind of manufacturing robots.

April 24, 2008 10:14 PM  
Blogger SardineGirl said...

What was educationally significant and hard to measure has been replaced by what is educationally insignificant and easy to measure. So now we measure how well we’ve taught what isn’t worth learning!

--Dr. Arthur Costa, CSU Sacramento

April 25, 2008 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for him!! It's time to EDUCATE kids instead of preparing them for endless testing. This is another good reason to HOMESCHOOL kids. There are teachers who have gotten out of the rotten system and are privately homeschooling 5-10 children at a time in their homes. That's how my child was educated and she's great! I think that is one reason the jack-booted thugs in Texas raided the compound in Texas and separated the children from their mothers. The government hates educated citizens. A more compassionate action would been to have made the men leave and let the women and children stay at the compound and receive counseling if they wanted it. Look for home schoolers to be harassed and threatened in the very near future. This has set a precedent.

April 25, 2008 12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sad to say my child was in the public school system of Washington State and dropped out because it was so bad. She constantly told me she learned nothing. I agree. After years of research on this and other connected topics I have come to the conclusion that the goal is not education. It is something else. Compliance. Never question the authority of the State. Be a robot. Be a zombie. Be brain dead. No critical thinking allowed. No real HUMANITY. Get your kids out of these schools while you can, or you will regret it like I did and still do. California's decision to OUTLAW home schooling is the one of the most fascist decision ever, among many we have seen come down the pipe from our so called "democracy" Since when does the State own our children? This country is on the verge of an all out revolution if the States keep going. If fact I do not think kids are going to need one ounce of the garbage they learn in public schools to know how to pull the trigger on a weapon.....

April 25, 2008 10:07 AM  
Anonymous brodemusj@sbcglobal.net said...

In the first year of the Illinois Goals and assessment program (IGAP) back in the 1980s, the "best performing" school on the science test was from Gardner Illinois. People from the ISBE rushed to see what was done by this exemplary program.

As it turns out, they had no science program at all !!!. For three years one day a week was devoted to taking practice science tests.

There were no labs, no phenomena to study, no experiments to design, no analysis, no conclusions. And this is called science????

April 25, 2008 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter just finished taking the 10th grade WASL required to pass for graduation. She complained of a math question that was so vague, she left it blank. A chart of information was given and she was asked for a conclusion, but no specific question was asked. This test takes up over half the school day for two weeks. The rest of the WASL day at her school is spent watching movies!

When this test was first introduced, (at the urging of big businesses in the state that claimed an interest in higher-quality employees) it was supposed to measure how well the teachers were getting across to students the state standards in math and reading. It was a measure of teacher performance, meant to improve teaching techniques.

Then it morphed into a high-stakes graduation requirement for 10th graders. Then, with NCLB, it morphed into high stakes for all schools and students from elementary on up.

Even mediocre teachers know who in their classroom is struggling and needs extra help. If all the time and money poured into WASL was spent on actually providing head start and ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN WHICH OUR STATE DOES NOT YET HAVE; if it was spent for tutors for students in need, we might actually see some improvement!

April 25, 2008 12:59 PM  
Blogger Professor Smartass said...

If you are a teacher or belong to one of the major teacher unions, you must contact your union at the local, state, and national level and tell them to stop supporting or only half-heartedly opposing NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.

They should unequivocally oppose any Republican education policies since they invariably serve two purposes:

1. funneling money into the pockets of cronies, in this case testing companies.

2. making public education look like a failure, in this case by wasting teachers and students time preparing for the test, then using the test results to prove public schools are failing.

Contact AFT

Contact NEA

Write them today and see if we can overload their servers with a ton of emails.

You can also write your Congressman and Senators.

April 25, 2008 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

I'm proud of you Sir!! I Guest Spoke a few times at a school in Fed Way and some teachers there did not like WASL but would not risk losing their job over it.

Next year they are instituting uniforms! I'll be fighting that to the best of my ability.

Thanks for giving me a smile during my news collecting!

April 25, 2008 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a retired 6th grade teacher. I retired just before this testing madness became a reality. I would have been proud to have worked with Mr. Chew, he is a credit to the word EDUCATION. Many times I have said that I would not have been able to teach with the current testing regulations, children need and must have the creative side of them expressed in order to survive and flourish!

April 25, 2008 5:04 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

This post has been removed by the author.

April 25, 2008 5:42 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

This post has been removed by the author.

April 25, 2008 5:42 PM  
OpenID dbentbroad said...

PREFACE: I find it amusing that negative comments about this article have been deleted.

As a teacher myself...

Standardized tests are the best measure we presently have for holding teachers accountable for what they are or are not teaching. The argument that "there are better things for teachers to spend their time on than standardized testing" is completely ridiculous, as a typical testing cycle takes 3-4 days (out of 180 in Indiana). Most kids miss around 5 days of school a year, so the thought that it's a strain on teachers is completely invalid.

Was this teacher on the state board that approved this test? Did he attend the meetings that helped set the criteria for the test? I seriously doubt it. If he had, then more than likely it would have been mentioned in the article to help glorify this guy. So before you label him as a "hero" for doing something popular, think.

The state sets standards to teach, then does its best to measure how well each school is imparting these standards onto the students. I HATE standardized testing, but it's what we have, so it's what we have to live with for now until someone comes up with a better idea. Yes, it's not fair to some, but to the other 95% of kids, it's a fairly accurate measure of what they know. I see around 275 kids each day, and I have access to their test scores for our state's standardized test. There was only 2 or 3 whom failed the test that surprised me. Is it sad that those kids are being unfairly judged based off of some bubble test? Yes, it's awful. What else are we supposed to do? Once you stop holding teachers and kids accountable for their work, people become complacent and stop working as hard and/or stop caring. I teach at a school where most of the teachers are 40+, which is fine, but most of them are burnt out and VERY lazy and, oddly enough, our test scores are quite low. I did my student teaching at a school where the teachers were very active and came up with extra programs, made kids who were struggling stay after, spent extra time, et cetera, and oddly enough their test scores are pretty high. Coincidence?

How about instead of complaining about standardized tests, you come up with an adequate replacement for it?

What's that?
You can't?

In that case, stop complaining/whining about standardized tests until you figure out something better.

Nothing is more ridiculous than someone complaining about a problem, yet offering no solution to it. Now, if you have a good, realistic solution to testing, let's hear it. Nothing annoys me more than senseless whining. It serves no purpose.

April 25, 2008 7:45 PM  
Blogger TPR said...

The only comments that were removed were done so by an author and didn't seem particularly negative.

April 25, 2008 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Senseless whining"???
Spoken like a true NAZI.

Standardized tests are mind controlled programming. They signify nothing, and teach nothing.

That is why public school is a joke.
And teachers like you, are sinister, beyond belief.

I wouldn't let my child anywhere near you. You seem to hate children.

Take your test and shove it.

April 26, 2008 1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want a replacement for your standardized test?

How about teaching academic topics?
How about tests that measure and teach?

Surely you don't believe that teachers are too stupid to put together their own course plans?
You want to spoon feed the same pablum to every child in the USA?

Seems to me that this standardized testing has not improved our system, and never will.
So, take that measurement, and shove it.

April 26, 2008 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't something that is just going on in Washington. Most states DO have a horrible standardized test that teachers MUST teach to. The pressure put on us and the students (I am a teacher myself) is insane. In Florida, its the FCAT. In Michigan, its the MEAP. To the person who claimed Mr. Chew was "whining" - walk a DAY in a teacher's shoes and see what we deal with on a daily basis.

April 27, 2008 8:11 AM  
OpenID dbentbroad said...

Very interesting. I only see attacks on me, with nobody providing solutions.

"How about teaching academic topics?
How about tests that measure and teach?"

We do that already. Next solution, please?

"That is why public school is a joke.
And teachers like you, are sinister, beyond belief.

I wouldn't let my child anywhere near you. You seem to hate children."

Anonymous (it's interesting you're not confident enough in your opinion to put your name behind it), I am not a nazi. Tests are not supposed to teach. Tests measure what you have been taught. It is the best measure we have. I hate standardized tests as much as you, but it's what we have. The senseless whining derives itself from people complaining and not offering a solution.

Everyday I walk in a pair of teacher's shoes.

April 27, 2008 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Melva Gill said...

Hi I am a teacher here in primary in New Zealand. We have had debates over the last few decades as to what tests actually capture. The reality is very little other than out dated ideas of "banking" (Paulo Friere) facts.
Mr Chew has made a courageous and caring stand and I am deeply impressed.
Testing for the sake of testing gives no indication of personal growth or development.
It neither prepares a student for genuine deep learning nor for the future. It does not generate a curious learner, a thinker, or a learner who analyses, evaluates or synthesizes.
How is closed testing developing or building the thinkers of our future?

There is a brilliant discussion on TED about schools killing creativity, worth a trip through the net to check out. Mr Chew if you watch this you will know you are in very good, very esteemed company.
For other teachers you can look through www.TKI.co.nz which carries ideas for meaningful ongoing active assessment practices. Included on this site are various University studies that outline the thinking behind steps we have taken in NZ to move beyond meaningless testing. I would recommend the 'Black Box' and 'Beyond the Black Box'

Mr Chew thank you for valuing the learner and not an out dated, historical idea of regurgitated facts equalling education.
Melva Gill

April 29, 2008 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you! As a employee in a Washington State School, I can see how the WASL has put so much negativity in the schools and how it just does NOT work. I have a child who is beginning school and the WASL is already making me nervous!

April 30, 2008 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Lou said...

dbentbroad,
Please stop embarrassing teachers. Being a REAL classroom teacher I can smell "support staff" a mile away. When you spewed the line, "Tests are not supposed to teach" I was sure that you are not a classroom teacher. Tests are the ultimate teaching tool! Beside time management, study skills and problem solving, a well-designed test challenges students to take what they know and APPLY it to achieve a higher or unique understanding. This concept is at the heart of scaffolding and "teaching by design"! It is highly likely that you don't actually teach and almost a dead lock that your job has something to do with test implementation and "teacher support" Let me guess: you dump loads of "ideas" (in the form of useless books, articles and new-age pedagogy) on teachers and walk out of the room...right?
Here's a promise (and I bet you feel the truth of this in your bones): The real teachers at your school don't respect you.

There is nothing wrong with defending aspects of standardized testing and others have already done so here. You, however, make no sense. You are a living, breathing logical fallacy with bad grammar.
Mr. Chew listed a series of attacks on the WASL, all of which seem to be easily fixable. From his own statements it seems clear that he would willingly give a better test to his students.
Claiming that no one here is smart enough to fix it and sticking out your tongue is NOT a good argument. The onus is on YOU to show that his points were invalid if you disagree. You can't pretend his argument doesn't exist and then charge everyone else with the task of proving you wrong instead. You SHOULD have learned that in college.

I believe it would be quite simple for teachers to create a more rounded and equitable method of testing students. Some states do a better job than others but all have their failings.
Presently companies like Kaplan and ETS have far too much say in our testing standards and practices.
It's sad that we had a student who was being prostituted by her own mother in my school last year and the state didn't react in time to remove her from the situation before the mother moved them away; but we had a test "breach" during CMT's (our state mastery test) when a teacher lost a booklet and the state had "investigators" there in a couple hours. I'm sure many children were saved when the booklet was found!

May 1, 2008 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen to Lou. You are just making excuses for why you do not want to take the time to administer the test, only pointing out the negative consequences it may bring. You cannot have a great argument without pointing out the pros as well. You honestly think that the children today have it worse that from a few decades ago? Without proper assessment and stimulation of prior knowledge, one person cannot prove that he/she can move onto the next level in education. So many students are being passed ff to the next level when they are not proficient enough to do so. Why do you think we have these tests in the first place? What authority do you have to "spit" in the face of the several people who take the time to create these tests?

May 1, 2008 2:33 PM  
OpenID dbentbroad said...

Lou, I enjoy how you have to make a personal attack onto me to make yourself feel better. Would it make you better than me if I were 'support staff?' It's nice that you make assumptions about things completely foreign to you.

Who makes the tests? The Department of Education. Who would get a job at the Department of Education? Someone that's never taught?

Tests are/should be designed to measure what you have learned. If you're teaching a new concept on a test, then you must be an incredible teacher.

May 2, 2008 10:15 PM  
Blogger Flapjack Weevilbaker said...

Here are some authentic and meaningful ways of evaluating growth in students:

Performance-based assessments
Portfolios showing growth over time
Anecdotal notes from teachers
etc.

But, in order to do these types of things, teachers would have to be given back their professionalism, which NCLB has taken the last of.

I have left public school teaching, and pulled my children out of public school. We all are happily spending our days in a progressive, private school that truly nurtures, but most people don't have that option. We have to make this better for our children's children.

May 3, 2008 10:56 PM  
Anonymous Mary Jo Harvey said...

What he did was illegal. He should be fired. There are ways to let one's voice be heard and not following the law and refusing to follow instructions from a supervisor is wrong and sends the wrong message to kids. The majoroty of his arguments are faulty and merely personal opinion.

May 4, 2008 1:19 AM  
Anonymous Changwa Steve said...

Hm,

In an educational environment where exams no longer count heavily toward final grades, any modestly endowed, slightly motivated student with a relatively stable home environment can maintain a 3.5+ GPA simply by keeping track of deadlines and showing up on time. How, then, are we to distinguish the dim bulbs from the bright lights? Through standardized testing!

No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone arrives on test day with a number two pencil, a piece of scratch paper and a brain. No Daddy's money, no connections, no fancy schools to impress and intimidate. You do your best, and the computers that grade the test neither know nor care about your race, your creed, or even your name.

When the scores arrive in the mail, just show me a poor black kid with a 1500 and I'll show you a kid who's going to Duke. What is wrong with this? How is this not the very essence of meritocracy?

June 15, 2008 4:29 AM  
Blogger Juli said...

I'm so grateful to teachers like Lou who read this article and took the time to make a comment that actually made sense in the realm of education.

dbentbroad, I don't know how long you've been teaching, but I know that as a fairly new teacher I was taught the same things Lou was. Assessment is a way to teach kids to apply the knowledge they've gained from your classroom in a way that's going to benefit them in their lives outside the classroom.

So little of teaching today is content. Rote memorization isn't going to get kids anywhere, countless research studies have proven that students don't learn that way.

I teach in an Urban school in the midwest and over the past 8 years the particular high school I teach with has made unprecedented leaps and bounds on the exact standardized tests you're talking about here. The way we've done it, however, would seem counterproductive to the way you seem to think things should be done.

Through extensive professional development our staff is taught to teach concepts above specific content and to teach students how to think and apply knowledge rather than to simply regurgitate a list of vocabulary words or events they've been set to memorize. In this way they're actually learning skills rather than facts.

I'm a biology teacher and even I realize that only about 1 out of every 100 of my students will actually go into a science field. At this point, it becomes even more important for me to teach relevance rather than just content. That's the tragic flaw in the tests, the education system has evolved past them. They're out of date and should be adapted to today's teaching standards.

Chanwanga Steve...

You obviously didn't read the reasons Mr. Chew had for doing what he did. The tests are not as unbiased as you seem to think.

The language used on the tests is clearly geared towards white, upper middle class students with large vocabularies. The tests themselves are written against the proven methods of student success and really aren't that great of an indicator of student mastery.

Personally, I feel that this is a case of non-educators controlling education. The bureaucracy sees high stakes testing in the same way that you do Steve. They believe that it's a great way to cull out the "bad seeds" from the bunch. In actuality some students who seem rather "dull" on a standardized test absolutely excel in a college environment.

In conclusion, (Since I've unintentionally written an essay) Put educators in control of education and ensure that all students are tested on a fair playing field then you can talk about high stakes testing.

January 8, 2009 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you Mr. Chew. I myself being a Senior in Highschool, always either; just pass a test by a few points, or fail completely. The education provided these days quite sickens me...the teachers don't help, all they really do is yell at us since we fail the tests.
I've never been one to be good at tests, I always lose interest because it's so boring, and unnecessary.

But I applude your courage, you're truly a person I can look up to.^^

February 4, 2009 9:15 AM  

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