Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Linda Myrick, a 4th grade teacher in Bellevue, WA – and a member of the Washington Badass Teachers Association – objected to the administration of Smarter Balanced Assessments before the Bellevue School Board.
As teachers, we stood with Linda in solidarity. Several parents and teachers who were at the meeting approached Linda afterwards and told her they agree with every word she said.
You may see her speech here.
Good afternoon, members of the board, Dr. Mills.
Yesterday was the birthday of the truly inimitable Dr. Seuss. So, today, in his honor, I’ll try a feeble imitation:
I am the Lorax.
I speak for the kids.
They love coming to school.
But we’ve hit the skids.
I love my job, but not the test.
That makes it hard to do what I think best.
I’m Linda Myrick, fourth grade teacher at Somerset Elementary, here to express my profound concern with the increasing amount and nature of testing and my objection to administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
I have a long history in Bellevue, hired by Principal Eva Collins to teach kindergarten in 1997. 18 years and 10 principals later, I can still say that I truly love my job and so many people who have made it interesting, challenging, and great.
But, I have watched the number, quality, and use of tests change dramatically over the years.
When I taught Kindergarten and first grade, we used the DRA, Developmental Reading Assessment. Time consuming, but I sat with my students one on one, listened to them read and answer questions, and I got excellent data to guide instruction.
Now, the DRA is revised to align with Common Core State Standards and children, who previously met standard at the end of Kindergarten, perfectly normal children, are now considered below standard. We don’t seem to care that the standards themselves do not align with normal child development.
Apparently the DIBELS alignment has changed as well.
And now WA Kids in kindergarten. Teachers walk around with clipboards, rather than “in the moment” with kids.
At our last PD day, Dr. Mills said he feels we don’t have enough IMMEDIATE access to data, but we’ll continue to use the STAR test for consistency. I want all of you to know that I DO have immediate access to THE MOST IMPORTANT DATA that I need every day. I look in the eyes of my students, I listen to their words, I watch them interact with each other, I conference with them, I read their journals.
We are losing the notion of the importance of THIS DATA while we are constantly looking at our reports and clipboards.
STAR Reading data is unreliable. And yet, every week, we sit in MTSS meetings and look at a long list of students with substandard STAR scores. An hour every week discussing every student on this list. We have about one minute per student. These are not quality conversations.
Now we’re getting ready for Smarter Balanced. I am fundamentally opposed to these inappropriate assessments. They will serve little purpose for our students other than to frustrate them with questions written by people who confuse rigor with obfuscation.
I hope all of you have had a chance to take the practice tests—especially the ELA Performance Tasks. There is no way these questions are appropriate to assess the knowledge and skills of the diverse group of learners we have in Bellevue.
We need to get back to authentic, teacher-driven assessment that is appropriate to the needs of our students.
Remember the end of The Lorax? UNLESS. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
Linda later reported:
I am very appreciative of our Bellevue School Board. During a lively public comment period last night, parents and teachers spoke about the negative impact of large class sizes in our elementary schools. Teachers (including yours truly) spoke about our objection to the over-emphasis on state and district testing in our classrooms.
A courageous young man spoke about the “invisible epidemic” of bullying of marginalized students, and even included the bullying of teachers by administration. Even while appreciating all of the strengths of a fantastic school district like Bellevue, we are seeing that the environment that is resulting from current conditions that affect all public schools exists here.
We are not immune. Dr. Mills responded briefly to the concerns in general, while noting that the assessment requirements that we implement in Bellevue are the result of federal and state mandates. He encouraged us to continue to advocate for legislative change. He expressed his support for the removal of annual testing requirements currently in place due to NCLB.
The connection among ALL OF THE CONCERNS discussed last night are clear to anyone who is paying attention. Connect the dots. We need to return our attention to the humanity of the whole child, and this attention must be the foundation of all legislation and policies.
What do you think? Should we wait until the legislature changes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act before we act? Should we rely on Congress, corporate reformers, school boards, and administrations to “do the right thing for children” or should we act on our conscience now? Should local school boards exercise their power and say no to the state and federal accountability system?
Are you ready to join the growing number of conscientious objectors to the Common Core tests? Join us by adding your letter to the comment section here. Thank you.