"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

No Confidence in Testocrats or Their Tests

From Seattle PI:

Kids aren't the only ones who hate the WASL -- so do many teachers, and some are so fed up that they're taking on the state's top education official over her continued support for the test.

Members of several local teachers unions will decide soon whether to issue votes of no confidence in state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.

Much of the discontent stems from Bergeson's unwavering support of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, an annual statewide test used to gauge public school students' academic performance and to show progress toward meeting federal reading and math goals.

The test always has been controversial, but opposition has reached a fever pitch as high school graduation approaches for the class of 2008. Those students are the first required to pass the reading, writing and math sections of the test, or an approved alternative, to earn a diploma.

"Her over-the-edge commitment on this has really created a big problem," said Dan Wilson, president of the Edmonds Education Association. "She endlessly says what a fabulous test it is, and teachers are saying, 'No, it's not.' "

The Auburn, Bremerton, Edmonds, Seattle, Lake Washington and Lake Stevens teachers unions are among the affiliates considering votes of no confidence.

The discussion is simmering at the local level for now, but it's likely a prelude to larger action that could occur when the statewide teachers union, the Washington Education Association, holds its annual meeting in May.

"After 12 years, they've reached a point where the frustration level is high," WEA spokesman Rich Wood said. "The discontent is pretty widespread."

Bergeson, a former teacher and counselor, is seeking re-election this fall to a fourth term as state superintendent, and losing the support of the state teachers union, a group she once headed, could be politically damaging. She wasn't available for comment Friday. . . . .
. . . . Even teachers in the Lake Washington district, where students generally perform well on the WASL, have problems with the test, said Kevin Teeley, the president of the local teachers union.

"Teachers are really, really frustrated about the time it takes away from instruction," he said. Between test preparation and actual test-taking time, "it's easily a month of lost instruction."

More importantly, he said, subjects that aren't tested on the WASL -- such as social studies -- tend to get pushed aside. . . .

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