On April 15, I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my sixth-grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.
It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year.
Though my act of civil disobedience was individual, I do not stand alone in my strong beliefs. Any Internet search for high-stakes testing will reveal highly regarded educators, distressed parents and sensitive teachers with a wealth of thoughtful writing and case studies supporting my views.
The WASL is bad for kids.
To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem and sadness for our children.
The WASL is bad for teachers.
For meager pay, teachers are asked to work in extremely challenging situations, keep absurdly long hours and, when it comes to the WASL, function in an atmosphere of fear.
The WASL is bad for parents and families.
The WASL is bad for schools.
Even in the best of times purse strings are rarely opened adequately to public education. Where a private school needs to charge $20,000-$30,000 to educate a child well, public schools are given a third or less of that for each student. Simply, schools are strapped for cash, many of them struggling each year to fund their needs with an ever- shrinking pot of money.
The WASL is just bad.
In the real lives of students, teachers, and parents the WASL is an ongoing disaster.