Yesterday's media event about opting out in Seattle Schools at the NAACP headquarters was quite the happening. All the media outlets showed up for a very lengthy press conference. At first, I worried about how many speakers there were - community leaders, parents, and, most of all, teachers on the front lines - but each had an important story to tell.
Basically, from what I can draw from various sources, the majority of opting out is happening in high schools. This figures as high school parents have been around longer than younger parents AND high school students are savvy and more likely to stand up to authority and say no.
My belief is that after the first year is done - and the scores come out - then next year even more parents will say no. This is exactly what is happening in NY and NJ with thousands of kids being opted out.
Apparently, State Superintendent Randy Dorn is falling back on the old standard "change is hard" and says the test will improve with time.
Hale and Garfield are reporting that nearly 50% of their 11th graders opted out. It appears the numbers at Roosevelt and Franklin are quite high as well. Garfield had so many that it suspended testing as they could not have the large numbers of non-testing students in the same room with students who were being tested.
Gerald Hankerson, head of the Seattle NAACP, put it bluntly - parents of color should opt their students out of the SBAC testing. No matter how it's softened up, he believes that these students will fail in large numbers and believe they are failures. He said that it is a social justice issue. Both he and Rita Green, a long-time Rainier Beach High parent/activist and now NAACP Education Chair, believe that there have not been enough resources directed to struggling schools. As well, they worry about the equity issues around technology access (since this is a computerized test).
Garfield teacher and education leader, Jesse Hagopian, said that this kind of lengthy testing creates a situation where "wisdom is the ability to eliminate a wrong answer," not knowing what the right answer is for the right reason (meaning, using critical thinking).
Doug Edelstein, a teacher activist at Nathan Hale High, talked about how his school has planned thoughtful and "authentic" assessments for their students and that, for 11th graders, SBAC is a waste of time. He quoted MLK, Jr. - not for the gravity of the situations - but that yes, "it was a matter of conscience" to stand up against what you believe is wrong.
Many of the teachers spoke of things going wrong - a practice test taken instead of the real one, OSPI being unable to supply a download to one school for two days (now wasted plus two other days to take the test once it was downloaded), and the length of the testing period, from 8-12 hours.
(We are also hearing from parents who say they are being urged by their school to bring in their own mouse and/or headphones for their child. What about the equity issues there?)
One Franklin history teacher told a heartbreaking story of an immigrant student who is very bright but still struggling with English. The student got to the computer lab and was taking the test but could not decipher all the words. She asked for a English/her language dictionary but was told that was only for the essay. The last day, this girl broke down sobbing from effort saying, "I don't want to fail."
It was then noted that there is a glossary translation for the SBAC math section except that there are NO African languages available. That is just stunning.
Another teacher said that between getting ready to test and actual testing, they probably lost a whole unit worth of teaching time.
There was also talk about the group, the New York Performance Standards Consortium, where that group of schools has opted out of state testing...since 1997. Their assessments are devised by educators. And, they have some of the highest graduation rates, with a diverse group of students. Their dropout rate is half of regular schools and their college acceptance rate is 91%.
Coverage by other media:
For the 11th-grade math test in Washington state, there's a version
in Spanish. There's also a glossary to translate words into Ukrainian,
Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, Punjabi.
Notice anything missing?
forgot the whole continent of Africa,” said Franklin High School
teacher Meg Richman. “Many of our students are from Somalia and
Ethiopia. And those languages are not represented in the glossary."
The teachers gathered at the NAACP say they aren’t bothered by higher
standards, though. They’re bothered that students are being held to
higher standards, but schools aren’t given the money to help those kids
meet those standards.
At a Tuesday press conference to discuss the unprecedented refusal
numbers, Garfield teacher Heather Robison said administering the Smarter
Balanced exams "goes against my professional and moral judgment."
"For all of my students," she said, "these tests are a waste of time."
Seattle Times - (a pretty odd write-up considering they never put the "why" in this article)