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Testing & Ed Reform

Now is not the time to make more changes to teacher evaluations!

It was a major fight, but WEA members helped defeat misguided legislation that would have mandated the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations. Making more major changes to the new evaluation system would have undermined faith and confidence in the system, and it would have sidetracked collaborative work between administrators and teachers to implement the new evaluations.

Educators fought off three different bills, including one the state Senate rejected by a vote of 28-19.

Immediately after the Legislature adjourned March 13, U.S Department of Education officials said they wanted to work with Washington to preserve flexibility related to the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. (See below.)

Teachers adamantly oppose mandating the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations, especially in light of the politicians’ failure on substantive issues like class size and compensation. Evaluating teachers on a brand-new, unproven test that doesn’t measure student growth does not help teachers or their students, and there’s no evidence or research to suggest it would. The legislation would have been the fourth major change in teacher evaluations in four years, and it would have undermined the collaborative work teachers and administrators are doing to implement the new system.

“Thousands of WEA members across the state contributed to this victory,” said WEA President Kim Mead. “Through email, phone calls, letters, petitions and even personal visits in Olympia, you educated legislators about why state tests should not be a mandated part of teacher evaluations.

“Our success in protecting our evaluation system means local teachers and their administrators will continue to decide what assessments are appropriate to use in teacher evaluations. We’ll be able to continue implementing our new evaluation system so it is fair and provides the feedback and support teachers need to be successful. That’s good for both teachers and our students.”

And officials with the U.S. Department of Education say they want to work with Washington on providing flexibility around our state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements.

From the Associated Press: “We continue to work with Washington officials on their request for flexibility,” said Dorie Nolt, press secretary for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

How much “reform” is too much “reform?”

In the last five years, in the name of education “reform,” lawmakers have passed bills making major changes to teacher evaluations, student assessments and the definition of basic education, among other things. Meanwhile, legislators such as Sen. Rodney Tom and Sen. Steve Hobbs demand even more changes. Yet since House Bill 1209 launched the education reform movement in Washington 1993, elected leaders and other officials have passed or adopted nearly 150 education “reform” laws or policies at the state and national level.

WEA researchers recently compiled these reports:

Seattle educators boycott standardized test

Teachers and staff at Seattle’s Garfield High School. Orca K-8 and Salmon Bay K-8 attracted national attention for their boycott of the district-mandated MAP test. They say the test takes too much time from student learning and that it doesn’t align with district curricula or state standards. The concern over too much student testing extends beyond Seattle. Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol and other education experts signed a letter supporting the boycott.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten also voiced support for the Seattle test boycott.

Educators across the country know what’s best for their students, and it’s no different for our members in Seattle. We know that having well-designed assessment tools can help students evaluate their own strengths and needs, and help teachers improve. This type of assessment isn’t done in one day or three times a year. It’s done daily, and educators need the flexibility to collaborate with their colleagues and the time to evaluate ongoing data to make informed decisions about what’s best for students,” Van Roekel said.

Media reports about the Seattle test boycott

Wall Street Journal: “…an escalating fight nationwide over using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools.”

KUOW/NPR: “Teachers at Seattle school refuse to give standardized test”

The Stranger Slog:  “I don’t think the district is going to be in a bind to not administer the test between now and end of the year.”

The Seattle Times: “…this particular test has a number of problems, everything from what it covers to how well it measures achievement.”

Seattle Times op-ed by Jesse Hagopian:  “Garfield teachers refuse to administer an ethics violation.”

Labor Notes: “A tremendous sword now hangs over these teachers’ necks. They will need our solidarity in the days and weeks ahead.”

The Nation: “The backlash against high-stakes testing has been percolating in other parts of the country.”

Democracy Now!  “And I just see no use for it at all. And so, I’m not going to do it.”

KING 5 TV: “Teachers say they understand the risk, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Central District New: “Garfield High teachers refuse to administer District-mandated MAP test”

KIRO radio: “…eleven teachers at ORCA alternative school in Seattle are also boycotting the test…”

Capitol Hill Times: “There have been increasingly public rumblings in the academic world over what some call the overuse of standardized tests…”

West Seattle Blog: “Garfield and all high school teachers find themselves in a Kafkaesque situation…”

Share other news links about high-stakes testing and quality teaching

NPR interview with Diane Ravitch: “High-stakes testing warps everything.”

What we can learn from Finland: Less testing, more respect for teachers

Another NPR interview with Diane Ravitch: “… the unions really aren’t the problem in education.”

Unions help strengthen teacher evaluations


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