Thursday, April 11, 2019

Testing Season 2019

Image may contain: one or more people and textUpdate:
Parents, please review the links I have provided. 

Your child MUST take the SBAC in 10th grade to graduate.

If you are considering HCC, your child MUST take the SBAC.  (I consider this weaponizing SBAC but that's SPS for you.)

end of update

Seattle Schools is coming up for the testing window for the SBAC.

Opt out info here, including opt-out form.

I again urge you to opt your child out.
#OptOut #RefuseTheTest
From Ignite Fire:

No child has a standardized mind. All are unique and different. In Finland, the first standardized test is taken at 16. Plenty of time to develop and mature. 

➡️Why are we pushing and rushing children to high achievement so early? ➡️Why do we care if they are showing college and career readiness in 3rd grade? ➡️Why are we robbing children of their childhood? ➡️Why are we stealing their opportunities to explore and find their passions?

From Stop Fed Ed:
By now, most states have chosen not to use the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) assessments, which were designed after the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The states remaining in Smarter Balanced are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Five Things every parent, educator, and legislator should know about high-stakes, standardized testing

  • These tests were rolled out having never been field tested and the results have been disastrous. Computer Adaptive Testing- was previously never been tried in the history of the US on such a large scale at the elementary level. Validation requires the test developer to show that the test actually measures what it claims to measure. This has never been demonstrated to anyone’s satisfaction.

  • These tests don’t tell us where we can improve. Many assessments such as classroom and performance tests have diagnostic and instructional value but high-stakes standardized tests have no such value. Teachers and students are barred from seeing the direct results of the tests to discover what went wrong.

  • The tests distort what and how teachers teach. What gets measured is what gets done, and not much else gets done. The tests cut out instruction in subjects not tested, yet some states have wanted teacher evaluations will eventually be tied to these tests.

  • The tests have shown no positive results. After more than a decade of standards and testing accountability efforts there has been virtually no increase in achievement outcomes.

  • The tests are incredibly costly in both time and money.
Opting Out 

 From Washington NEA:

  • Do students and parents/guardians have the right to opt-out their child from state testing?

    Yes, but OSPI refers to this as a refusal, not an opt-out. While not addressed in state legislation, adopted agency policy allows students or parents to refuse to participate in state assessments. This policy requires either the student or parent to put this request into writing and for it to be kept on file at the school or district office. In addition, the policy recommends the parent include the reason for not wanting the child tested but it is not required. Requests should specifically list any tests you wish to opt-out of including interim tests, practice or make-up tests.
From FairTest:

  • Send the principal a letter saying you don’t want your child to take the tests. It could be as basic as: 
I want to let you know we do not want our child, [name], to take part in the [name the standardized exam] this year. Please arrange for [him or her] to have a productive educational experience during the testing period.” 


NNE Mom said...

Does anyone know what percentage of SPS students or WA state students opt out?

BuckeyeOne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

In Long Island, NY, where there has been a huge boycott, it's like 20%.

Anonymous said...

I’m not a huge testing fan (unless the data are truly used for deeper analysis and accountability), but isn’t this testing required in order to be eligible for HCC? Parents who think they may want to apply should look into this before opting out. Unless this has changed, Melissa’s urging should carry a caveat.

All types

Melissa Westbrook said...

All Types, that info is available in the link I provided. Yes, the district uses the SBAC as a weapon to make sure all possible students would might be HCC take it.

Caveat, you know that putting up that tired old link tells us who you are. Go back to your sad blog and don't come back.

Anonymous said...

The opt out rate is likely well above 2-3%. For high school alone it’s been as high as 53% in WA. See this article in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/11/common-core-test-opt-out-rate-for-washington-state-juniors-as-high-as-53-percent/

Also, Francis, you don’t need to pick a pseudonym if you’re logged in.

Pee Wee

Anonymous said...

Melissa, yes the info re: testing and HCC eligibility may be in there, but it's pretty buried. First you get the link to the opt-out info (which doesn't mention it, then there's your statement urging people to opt out, then there's a link to the Facebook page, then there are a couple quotes from groups opposed to high-stakes testing...and then, there's a simple link to SPS's info (which finally provides that info, way down low for someone who bothers to read the FAQs that far). It would be pretty easy for a parent to read a little then jump on the bandwagon without realizing the potential consequences. But I guess that's their problem, right?

It's also required that students pass the 10th grade SBAC to graduate, but I imagine high school students who still need it are savvy enough to talk their parents out of trying to opt them out.

I don't have any clue what you were referring to re: a "tired old link" and "my sad blog," so maybe you have me confused with someone else? But I don't see anyone who posted here as "Caveat" and I used that word--so I assume you were addressing me--but I'm mystified.

My intention was only to recommend not being so black and white in your push for opt-outs. For many--most--students it might make sense. But since many people read and are influenced by your blog, I assume you'd want to be careful and not discourage someone from taking a test they need. New parents, especially, could easily miss this info, and I don't believe you'd want a you'd want a student to miss out on HCC due to a misstep like not testing when needed. It would be pretty simple to say "Unless your student really needs to take the SBAC (check SPS FAQ's re: potential implications), I urge you to opt out." Opting out is not a one-size-fits-all strategy.

all types

Anonymous said...

I opted my kids out of testing in SPS because of the inordinate time it took to cycle an entire middle school through the test--like 2 weeks of wasted instruction time...kids sitting in "study halls", etc.

But as a teacher in a private school, I must tell you that knowing my kids will be tested on this year's math standards concentrates the mind. I focus all year on getting through the curriculum, reviewing so kids can retain what they've learned, and helping them learn how to approach and take apart difficult problems. We use MAP.

My kids had a 5th grade teacher who did many interesting things with them, and got only 2/3 through the math curriculum. That did them no favors in middle school math. Knowing my MAP scores will be examined, I would never allow that to happen, even if I did not have the personal commitment to my students and their welfare and learning.

You can make many valid arguments against testing, for instance, I see it as only a single data point on a student, but I do see it as objective, although imperfect, feedback on my teaching. Imperfect as I have students who don't try on the one hand and students with tutors on the other. But I teach enough classes that I feel those two ends of the distribution wash out and by looking at the students in the center, I can see how I am doing.

Contrary Opinion

Melissa Westbrook said...

All Types:

- I will change that notation but I assume parents know that their child has to pass the SBAC in 10th grade.
- I would assume that parents know enough to investigate an issue. I have never had a parent say, "I did what you said and look how it turned out." I provided multiple links so parents can make an informed decision.
- Another commenter had the name "Caveat" (which they picked up from your wording). This person has a grudge against me and it's just tiresome. I always delete his comments. I should have been clearer in wording that but this person changes monikers all the time in an effort to confuse readers.

Contrary Opinion, I believe that assessments are needed. They should happen in mini-ways throughout the year. But MAP and SBAC, across nearly all grades, is expensive and not helpful. One big assessment a year, one time at elementary, middle and high school, should be enough.

SBAC provides the current teacher no information and then the next teacher just sees a score, not the areas where the student needs help.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you make an assumption based on privilege that parents know that their child has to pass SBAC in 10th grade. Do they know about the new WCAS in 11th? In many Seattle schools (mostly South end, but also North end as well), parents don't speak the language, or are working so many hours (often times at multiple jobs) that they don't know this. Your assumptions further show your lack of understanding for our immigrant families, people of color, and other communities who do not have the privilege to be as involved in the education of their students as those with greater socioeconomic status and wealth. These assumptions are problematic and could easily viewed as racist.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Assumptions, let's examine your take.

First, every single school - middle and high schools - make it clear that students and parents need to know what has to happen to graduate from SPS. There are handouts in first day packets, info at any school counseling office, on the district's website (in multiple languages), at school websites.

Perhaps it is you who underestimate people of college and immigrant families. Someone in my family was an immigrant and while his parents didn't understand English well, they made sure he was in school and supported his learning. Being an immigrant doesn't mean you don't care about academics and are not bright enough to ask for answers in order to help your child.

I think perhaps it is your assumptions that might be easily viewed as racist.

Anonymous said...

So your juvenile response is "I'm not racist, you are?" Really? And then admit that you will continue to make assumptions about the experiences of all immigrant families because you had an immigrant in yours? It also still dismisses the overall context and experience of people of color in SPS, whether immigrant or not. And dismisses the privilege of having time, skill, language, cultural experience with education, etc to read the huge SPS packets.

You also use having a disabled child as evidence that your know about each unique experience of families with disabled children? Or that you know all about science and science education because your late husband and some friends are scientists? What other experiences and perspectives are you going to assume for people? So even if your assumptions are not racist, at best they are elitist and ill-informed.


Melissa Westbrook said...


1) It is not "juvenile" to turn someone's argument back to them. It forces the other person to look not only at their assumptions but their motivation for attacking a person not on facts but on the person. B you are quite certain of your rightness about me and the rightness of your own assumptions so who am I to dissuade you?

2) Everyone has the right to use their personal experience in examining issues. However, I have never once said that my personal experiences are an example for all. You are making that assumption.

3) And why are you doing this? Well, you tripped yourself up when you mentioned my late husband and friends who are scientists. I know who you are because you and I had a conversation about that and only 1-2 other people know that and they would not write about it.

You want me to back off of the examination of the Science adoption. Along with other teachers and parents, I have put a lot of bright light on this issue and you want that to go away.

It's not going to, and, in fact, I'm fairly close to figuring out the nonsense about the Amplify subscriptions.

I would advise you to go find another person to try to intimidate and be condescending to because I'm not having it.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Readers, I do want you to note that Assumptions did just engage on the issue of the post - testing - but instead took it down a road to attack me.

Whenever you see this, you always need to ask yourself why.

Anonymous said...

It is unclear to me who you think I am, since you and I have never spoken before - personally or on this blog - however I am aware of your late husband, etc, because you mentioned them on this blog just last week in reference to the science adoption. In reading this blog for a couple weeks, I've noticed that your claim to expertise in some areas seems to devolve to "I have a family member..." This ends up being not really different than "I have a black friend so I know the black experience in America." It's not an authentic argument and is highly troubling to me. While your concerns about testing here are authentic (there is way too much testing!), I remain concerned about the assumptions you make about SPS families and are taking a limited viewpoint on the issue.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Assumptions, again, this topic is about testing and yet you continue to personally attack me.

You are wrong about that Science Adoption thread - nowhere do I mention my late husband. I know the only person I talked to about it and that person has to be you.

That insult - about knowing "a black friend" - is,like all your others, wrong. But my friends and associates, from all backgrounds, know this.

And since you throw out insults and yet don't sign your own name so we can all investigate who you are, again I say, just go away. Do not comment again; you will be deleted.

I am fully prepared to go to Mary Margaret Welch and the Board and tell them this. It will not reflect well on the Committee and their goals.

larrycane143 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Any comments on this thread topic - testing - are welcome.

All others will be deleted.

Civil Disobedience said...

Families should use community organizing and mass opt outs (the way high schools did several years ago) as a form of protest. In a school like Washington MS where the district has messed up the school through enrollment malfeasance AND hired a principal families don't have confidence in, there should be widespread opt-outs in protest.

Students could even do this on their own, sitting for the tests but intentionally getting each answer wrong.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Civil Disobedience, those are valid ideas. I feel greatly for the parents and staff at Washington Middle School. I think it's clear that Director DeWolf will do nothing.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding?!?!??? The HCC at WMS kids and parents are going A) opt out of a test or B) purposefully at throw a test to prove a point? That is a huge joke! And, they haven’t got the guts to do it. Somebody might think them unsmart! Or worse, might kick them out of HCC! How could they complain endlessly about the HCC schools if they weren’t in them? HCC is never good enough, but always a necessity.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, you never fail to pounce. The person was talking about mass opt outs for many reasons and used WA MS as an example. Sorry, but their principal is that bad.

Anonymous said...

While a change in leadership is needed at WMS, messing with the testing seems unlikely to bring about that change. Intentionally "throwing the test" is vindictive (and dishonest and small minded and on an on) and HCC or not, what students would want to intentionally sabotage their personal record? Even if students sat for the test, and then just sat - not officially opting out, but also not taking the test - wouldn't that mostly negatively impact their classmates who are trying to take the test?

do better

Melissa Westbrook said...

Throwing the test is vindictive? Yeah, and I suppose sitting at a lunch counter if you were black was vindictive? Civil rights are civil rights and even students can say, I don't believe in this test nor do my parents so I'm not going to try (or sign my name and not answer any questions.

Your testing record in elementary and middle school means nothing especially if your grades are good.

What you mean by "negatively impact their classmates?"

Anonymous said...

Throwing the test is dishonest. Opting out is honest.

Ethics 101

Anonymous said...


Yes, I agree with Melissa and just about any WMS parent you talk to.

By the way, HCC kids are already in HCC. They don't need to take a single other standardized test if they don't want to. They can't be kicked out, either. Opting out is a luxury they have that many don't have. Plus, they're not in HCC for the high scores. Many, many HCC kids have weak grades. You're confusing high achieving with highly capable. Not the same thing.

Purposefully failing a standardized test is also a valid form of protest, whether HCC or not. If any student gets 1st percentile, let alone several, then that is not a statistically valid result. So it's a simple form of protest all families could use.

I would like to stress the importance of actually "zeroing" a test: if you just get a few answers wrong and get an L1 or L2 instead of an L3 or L4, administrators and registrars might read that as someone needing academic supports. To make the point, a student would have to get a statistically invalid result, which means getting a 1st percentile (or "zero") on the test, so that administrators and registrars can't argue it's OK to rely on the data for placement. The course grades given by teachers have to be strong as well.

Two caveats, which others have mentioned. Fifth graders kind of need to do well on their SBAC tests because those results are used for math placement in middle school, and an L4 in ELA is usually needed to start a World Language in 6th grade. (Though, not at WMS, which de facto doesn't offer world languages at all any more.)

Eighth graders are in a bit of the same boat: they need strong SBAC results because they are used for placement in high school.

Otherwise, opting out or intentionally "zeroing" standardized tests is perfectly reasonable.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is a family's right to opt their child out of the testing. To be fair, when students opted out of the high school testing a couple of years back, it was not yet a graduation requirement. It was kind of a low risk protest. Some students simply opted out because they could - it was not necessarily done in protest. But if the problem is a principal, not the test per se, how exactly does opting out improve the situation?

not clear

Anonymous said...

Test scores under a principal's watch are used for HR and hiring purposes and to allocate certain kinds of district funding. If your standardized test scores are off as a principal, then it makes it harder to find a new job without explaining it, same with HR if looking for a new position or promotion within the district. On paper it makes the school stand out as "something is wrong here," and that's not good for a principal.

It potentially can have a positive side effect: Washington would be a Title I school if HCC had not been placed there. Since with HCC the test results look "average" overall, the additional funding those kids need is not provided. If HCC kids opted out en mass, those scores would drop, and it might make it easier to get the school more funding and supports for its non-HCC scholars that the district should be providing but does not.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, you're comparing mostly middle class white kids and their entitled parents (i.e., the typical opt-out group) opting out of testing to blacks sitting at lunch counters in the segregated south? Those blacks were often beaten and/or jailed, if not killed, for that protest.

What is wrong with you?


Anonymous said...

If test results have been intentionally manipulated then one could argue they aren't valid for assessing the performance of the principal or the state of the school.

not convinced

Melissa Westbrook said...

Selma, I did not compare the two; I said the issue was about civil rights. It’s important for all people to stand up to any government mandate they feel is unjust. If it take white parents to lead the charge (when in fact it is children of color who are most hurt by overtesting), then so be it.

Not Convinced, good point. Maybe we should grade children, staff, schools and districts on more than one measure.

Anonymous said...


another view

Anonymous said...

Amen Selma.

Civil rights? So not getting a great band experience like you deserve, or your choice of optional, unfunded second languages is a civil rights issue. If you want to see a bad principal or a civil rights issue, I’ve got an idea. Go check out Licton Springs. The HCC program proudly has driven minority students out of every corner of Licton Springs to support their electives. Licton Springs students aren’t even allowed gym time. Playing in the yard, rain or shine, is good enough. And the elective band classes blare in their building to their hearts content. The fact that it blasts right through to LS classrooms because it is in nonsoundproof classrooms is of no concern to anyone. LS is relegated to a single table in a remote corner of the cafeteria. Wouldn’t want any fraternizing or corruption going on. If you want to talk about lunch counters, that’s the modern day lunch counter we should care about.


Anonymous said...


HCC has literally nothing to do with access to electives or gym time for Licton Springs students. That is scapegoating, pure and simple, and pitting Licton Springs against HCC is exactly what some in the district want us to do. It is based on lies. The district never, ever consults HCC families about anything it does, and it never, ever listens to what HCC families tell them. The superintendent didn't even host a listening tour stop for them. The truth is you can blame the principals of RESMS and Licton Springs for all scheduling and space conflicts in that building and for any presence, or absence, of a collaborative spirit. Next, you can blame the school board and capacity management for the overcrowding at RESMS, which the district and board were warned about well in advance of RESMS opening, but they nothing to correct it. (The situation at WMS you imply is different; full language sequences and music courses are offered at all middle schools, including those without HCC; only WMS offers a shunted music program and no real language program. That has nothing to do with HCC, since schools without HCC are able to offer these.)

Licton Springs was promised, and should have been given, its own, separate building, but the district reneged on that promise (more than once). The district not-so-secretly wants to shut down Licton Springs because it is the most expensive school per capita to fund in the entire district. Please stop blaming 11-13 year-old children for the problems that the adults in the district have created for themselves, despite ample advance notice how to avoid the problems. It also does nothing to solve problems of broken promises to Licton Springs', which could be fixed within a year if only the district wanted to. Send your anger to the board and stop blaming children for adults' failures.

and Play

Anonymous said...

Play, Does every other middle school offer full language and exclusive musical offerings, and are those things required? No, they don’t. And they aren’t funded for it. But it’s only a problem when it’s for your kid in HCC. That actually is the civil rights problem. You. The only reason one school is more expensive than another, like LS, is because they have students in special education or poverty programs, or both. LS has become a central drop off for such students. If LS is disbanded, those expensive students don’t disappear, they are sent somewhere else. HCC isn’t cheaper or more cost effective because it forces those students, who do come with funds attached, to other places. That is also a civil rights issue and a whole other level from some small, inconvenience at WMS which was selected by the complaining parents. I know if my kids French horn practice was blasting a school full of other kids, or if my kids were were marauding through other kids’ classrooms (which are in the hallway) during every passing period, I’d definitely speak up about it. Who is blaming the poor 11-13 year olds? Nobody. That is a transparent ploy for pity. And it is absurd. They are blaming you, the parent for continuous demands for exclusive inequality and inequity for your own kids. It has gone a long way in creating the situation we now have. Noticing such inequality, isn’t anger (another ploy to discredit) it is simply an observation.


Anonymous said...


Please don't pretend your angry words aren't angry or directed in part at children. That is plain for anyone to scroll above and read and see. My points above stand, and if you're putting yourself in the camp that is defending the principal at Washington, there is no saving you. That is an indefensible position. Someone with any leadership skills placed in that same difficult situation would have emerged the year with a unified, tight-knit, inclusive community that had solved problems together. But no. No leadership, no unity, no problem-solving. Just scapegoating.

Civil rights. When African American and Latino students attending Washington are getting worse elective choices and crazy mixed-up class sequences (and a 7th grade chemistry class so bad the district now has to offer a free summer class to make up for the full year behind that those kids now are), than are African American and Latino students who happen to attend any other middle school (and, yes, they all offer proper music and language sequences, even Aki Kurose, which resorts to using a volunteer docent), then that is not equitable. All middle schools need standard minimum course offerings that include electives like STEM, art, drama, music, language, and PE. And no-cut extracurricular sports, too. Anything short of that is not really middle school. What kind of planet do we live on that you are criticizing parents calling for this rather than joining them? Plenty of non-HCC students were taking language and music at Washington! It has nothing to do with HCC. It has to do with a principal who made n00b mistakes managing her school, mistakes unforgivable at her salary level, and a district that fails to plan capacity correctly or fund needed services based on an equitable offering of opportunities for all students, regardless of the school they attend or the wealth of their neighborhood.

Rich kids at Washington will still get private lessons in language and music. Who is most harmed by the reduction and lack of these courses there? Students from families without means. Blaming the presence of HCC kids for these problems is scapegoating. As I said, my points stand, and you should direct your obvious anger not to them or their parents but to the principal, board, and district.

and Play

Anonymous said...

Summer school science?? That sounds pretty messed up.


Anonymous said...

Gee whiz, Play. You seem to be the one who is totally angry. WMS has always been messed up. Totally messed up. Maybe it’s not as simple to fix as you think. A few years ago the HCC parents were all lauding the wonders of their music program, and how to best keep their special perks going, while other kids were actually burning down the bathroom. The good old days must not have been so great for everyone. I personally know a kid (poc, non HCC) who had eye socket broken requiring surgery at WMS. No peep about civil rights then. And now, you’re crying about summer chemistry? Oh the injustice! If you step back a minute, you can probably figure out why other people aren’t especially moved by that. And your big act of civil disobedience, is going to be mess up the tests that nobody cares about, just like a real civil right warrior. Better be careful. Some of the colleges nowadays are looking at middle school transcripts. It won’t happen, but best of luck!


Sigh said...


Even without LAP, title 1, ELL, and SpEd funding, schools in Seattle spend dramatically differing amounts of money per student depending on the school they attend.

A civil rights problem is when students at Washington (25.1% black, 38.6% white, etc., 36.3% FRL) get no world language options and students at Eckstein (4.0% black, 67.9% white, etc., 11.8% FRL) get to pick between French, Japanese and Spanish. It's racist when students at the whiter school with the low FRL get to pick from a variety of world languages and the students at the more POC school with higher FRL don't get to take a world language.

And Licton Springs does indeed have problems, but they were caused by the district which bizarrely decided to locate the school inside another school and to overenroll the other school and to underenroll Whitman and to not move waitlists. So, say you had a polite student at Eagle Staff who didn't want to cause problems for Licton Springs students. How would they go about that? It's not like they can pick a different middle school. Do you want students to not walk in the hallways? The district needs to fix the problems it created.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Pounce, what does "full language" mean? I have not heard that term.

Also Pounce, you can aim your ire at adults. I do not like attacking children - which you are - when it is adults who make and enforce the policies. You need to go to those adults making those decisions.

"The only reason one school is more expensive than another, like LS, is because they have students in special education or poverty programs, or both."

That's only partially true. If you are running a school with much lower enrollment - either by design or because of programming - it costs more per pupil to have staff and resources.

WMS has NOT always been "messed up" (whatever that means). It was a pretty good school years back and it's only in the last couple of years that it has taken a nose-dive. Every single middle school has issues around discipline.

And just to note, that summer science school is going to cost money. Why are we paying for that when that teaching and learning should have happened during the school year?

If you think the problems at RESMS are solely because of the presence of HCC students, you'd be wrong. It's the pitting of RESMS vs Licton Springs K-8 for space that NEVER should have happened. That the district is allowing this kind of unhappiness to fester is terrible.

The district needs to fix the problems it created.

I would adjust that statement to read, "The district needs to fix problems it creates with poor planning and lack of enforcement/oversight of policies."

I'll end the discussion here since, despite my asking for people to stay on topic, the discussion has once again veered off.