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Civil Disobedience and High Stakes Testing

Found via Lee Speers blog

It seems that a teacher in Seattle decided to take a stand against the the state’s standardized test, WASL. Quite simply, he refused to administer it. While it seems he has gained the admiration of his peers and many administrators for his actions, he was still suspended without pay for two weeks. His response? “When you do an act of civil disobedience, you gracefully accept what happens to you.”

I’m in my cubicle right now giving him a standing ovation.

Via the Seattle Times:

Chew issued a two-page, single-spaced statement listing all of his concerns about the WASL. It includes his contention that many questions on the test are unclear, notes its costs, and says teachers get little information about how to help students improve. The letter also says the WASL focuses too much attention on just a few subjects.

“I think it’s good for students to have basic skills in reading, writing and math,” he said. “But also to have good skills in P.E. and art and music and public speaking.”

The WASL, he said, needs to be scrapped and replaced with a “gentler, kinder way of finding out what our students know and helping teachers educate them better.”

Gotta respect any person who has the courage of their convictions and actually takes a stand for what they believe in, rather than just talking about it.

And what about next year? “I have let them know I’m never going to give the WASL again,” he says.

Lee Speers speculates “What if a whole school, or district, or even state would do this. Who knows, maybe the next Arlo Guthrie would even write a song about it.”

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really crazy and
they’ll suspend him without pay.

And if two people, two people do it, they may think they’re both off their rocker and they’ll send them both home.

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people refusing to administer the state test? They may think it’s an organization.

And can you, can you imagine fifty teachers,I said fifty teachers walking into the principal’s office, refusing to give the state test and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

And that’s what it is, the Clear-Thinking-Teachers-Anti-High Stakes-Testing Movement, and
all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come’s around on the guitar.

(original lyrics by Arlo Guthrie)

  • Wow that’s risky. I wonder what parents think.

    Dave LaMorte

    5/8/2008

  • Good for him! Most teachers I’ve met just feel defeated so a movement would really help. I’ve actually had to suspend a research project because of the testing that takes up most of the month of May in the school division where I am working. It’s online so the teachers can’t use the network for anything during the testing. I really don’t have a problem with standards and accountability but it has become the only focus of what schools do now. Maybe we could get the kids involved in the movement, too. All head to Alice’s on the day of the test.

    KarenR

    5/8/2008

  • I agree with Chew’s position. I’m assuming there is a history leading up to this point, otherwise essentially flipping the bird to the state like he did would be more embarrassing than helpful. I would be intersted to see what, if any, conversations he had with his students before doing this.
    I also don’t think “gentler, kinder” are two word that should’ve been used. My first image was a cute teddy bear on the top of each piece of paper. “Ah, it’s a WASL. I’m safe now!”

    Josh

    5/8/2008

  • @Josh
    According to the article:
    He said he didn’t tell his students about his plans.

    “I simply let them know that I had something important to do during the WASL time, and expected them to treat the guest teacher with respect,” he said. “And I told them to do well on the WASL.”

    Steve

    5/8/2008

  • I also love how his last act of “civil disobedience” was taking 5th graders out for afternoon recess. Isn’t civil disobedience a little strong?

    Josh

    5/8/2008

  • There are examples of districts standing up as well… Here is a quick reference that I read a while back. Not as big a step as this person but there are examples.

    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/02/22/7240/

    SMeech

    5/8/2008

  • Awesome! Join @teach42 in giving Seattle science teacher Carl Chew a standing ovation for subversive teaching! http://tinyurl.com/46sj87

  • [...] Civil Disobedience and High Stakes Testing – Teach42 I talk a lot about subversive teaching. Carl Chew, a science teacher in Seattle, is walking the talk. Join Steve Dembo in giving Carl an online standing ovation! (tags: education testing) [...]

  • In South Carolina the Education Accountability Reforms Act Bill calls for dropping PACT, our state test, and replacing it with MAP. Hope the law passes!

    Diane Weber

    5/9/2008

  • Bravo to Mr. Chew!
    We here in Texas are subjecting our students to a, no doubt, similar test. Ours is the TAKS test, and I only wish I had the gumption to do as Mr. Chew did.
    Carl, should you ever make it to the Lone Star State, I’ll buy you a cold one!

    Casey Hales

    5/12/2008