Well naturally, the newspapers had to weigh in on Eckstein teacher Carl Chew's decision to not give the WASL to his students. The PI's response was more measured while the Times let Lynne Varner loose on it with just about what you'd expect. From the PI:
"We won't pass judgment on the science teacher's decision to refuse to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning; he says he is willing to accept consequences. The key is for Seattle Public Schools to impose adequate discipline, which is fair to the teacher and nuanced enough to discourage escalations of the tactic on others' part."
Well, the district may be able to stop teachers but they can't stop parents. If more parents opted out, the Legislature and OSPI would have to listen to their concerns. Mr. Chew mentioned that in California teachers can tell parents about this option. I didn't know it was not possible here for teachers to tell parents about opting out. Still, I note that Denise Gonzalez-Walker's blog over at the PI has had discussions on opting out and it seems more parents are learning about it all the time.
The PI then has some reasonable suggestions to ward off this kind of action:
"A group of legislators has asked state Auditor Brian Sonntag to examine a contract for WASL testing. There's nothing wrong with looking at whether the state is getting its money's worth. A further option would be to have a genuinely fair review of where the state is with WASL and whether any refinements are in order. "
Over at the Times, Ms. Varner strikes a bit more of a bombastic tone.
"The Eckstein Middle School teacher who characterized his refusal to administer the WASL as an act of civil disobedience deserves to have his bloviated defense cast right up there with Hillary Rodham Clinton evading sniper fire in Bosnia."
As someone on the front lines, Mr. Chew probably knows better than Lynne Varner what the WASL does and does not mean to students and its effect on them. (And Hillary said she misspoke which isn't the case here so I can't figure out what Ms. Varner is trying to say.)
She continues with some pretty hard to swallow statements like:
"Benchmarks like the WASL aren't perfect. More money and flexibility are needed."
Flexibility yes but money? More money thrown at the WASL? Does she know how much we have spent or do spend to give and score it?
Interestingly, then she goes on with some of the problems with the WASL:
"Teachers are forced to spend too much time preparing students for a test too narrow to be useful. Concerns over the erosion of recess, free time and the freedom for those eclectic teachers who best captivate students are well-founded."
"But such inflexibility in the lower grades robs us of meaningful information from the WASL. We need to know whether a student's failure on the math section came at the hand of algebra or more basic calculations. Moreover, fixating just on passing WASL ignores the incremental improvements students make."
"Another weakness is the test's inflexibility when it comes to special-education students and those who don't read English. Administering the test to students who don't have a remote chance of passing it serves no purpose other than to humiliate."
Sound like some valid problems here. So why the drama?
Ms. Varner seems to think, like many, if you raise your voice against the WASL, you are against assessments. That's only true for a very small minority of parents. Mr. Chew didn't say he was against assessments. He said he and other teachers do a see the need for assessments.
The flaw is in the testing instrument not the testing.