Sunday, January 17, 2010

Testing Testing Testing

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Testing Testing Testing

May 31, 2008 – 9:41 am by Brendan

Back in early May I touched on a story of a Washington state teacher who refused to administer the WASL test (Washington’s state test for NCLB). Carl Chew, a teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School, was suspended for his refusal.

About a week later Doug Ward, a teacher at Cullowhee Valley School in North Carolina, was also suspended for refusing to give the federally mandated test.

About a week after that another teacher was moved to the “rubber room” when his students refused to take a practice test. Douglas Avella is a teacher without a class at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx.

Technically I can see the first two cases. The test is required by the federal government so they can decide which schools get money and which schools get taken over. Let’s not start debating whether this is effective or if this follows the Republican ideas of smaller more cost effective government. Rather we can say the teachers refused to comply with their duties as teachers and were appropriately punished. I’m sure Mr. Chew and Mr. Ward would make the same choice knowing full well they would be suspended. Actually, I would bet they were informally given a chance to reconsider before actually being suspended. Though I have no way of knowing for sure.

This last case, with Mr. Avella in New York, is the difficult one. First, the teacher and students all claim that he had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

“They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,” said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. “They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we’re robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.”

Second, the test was a practice test. It didn’t count as the federally mandated test. It didn’t count towards the grade, it was only practice.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year,” Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. “They don’t even count toward our grades. The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”

Third, the students followed up with a petition that they gave to the principal and the Department of Education.

“Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.”

Fourth, Mr. Avella is a Social Studies teacher. It is his job to teach students how to do this very thing. America was, and is, being built by individuals who are willing to stand up, against overwhelming odds, for what they believe is right. It think the real shame is the disinformation that some people seem to be trying to spread.

“Some teachers implied our graduation ceremony would be in danger, that we didn’t have the right to protest against the test,” said Tia Rivera, 14. “Well, we did it.”

A few days later, in a reprimand letter, Lopez [principal of IS 318] accused Avella of initiating the boycott and taking “actions [that] caused a riot at the school.”

Fifth, why is the school wasting taxpayer money. Mr. Avella was put in the rubber room. The rubber room is purportedly the place where Mr. Avella is sitting at full salary but without any students. A qualified teacher sits not teaching because his students protested a practice test. If he is really a danger to students I for one would like to hear about it.

“This guy was far over the line in a lot of the ways he was running his classroom,” said Department of Education spokesman David Cantor. “He was pulled because he was inappropriate with the kids. He was giving them messages that were inappropriate.”

Teaching students to question authority is very appropriate for a Social Studies teacher. At least it is if teaching the first amendment is important.

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