Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wis. Teacher Protests No Child Left Behind Law by Sitting Out Testing; Discipline Threatened

Published on Thursday, November 1, 2007 by Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - A middle school teacher is protesting the federal No Child Left Behind law by refusing to administer a standardized test to his eighth-grade students.

David Wasserman, a middle school teacher in Madison, began his protest Tuesday. Instead of giving students the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, he sat in the teacher’s lounge, leaving his colleagues to oversee the test.

He said he has moral objections to the federal law, President Bush’s signature education policy. The state test is used to measure whether schools are meeting annual benchmarks under the law. Schools that do not meet goals can face sanctions.

Like many teachers, Wasserman said he believes the test is a poor way to measure student progress, takes up too much class time and is used unfairly to punish schools. So after years of growing frustration, he said he decided to be a “conscientious objector” this year.

Wasserman said he originally planned to resume his protest on Thursday, the second day of testing, and through four more days of testing next week. But he said Wednesday he would likely back off and give the test after Superintendent Art Rainwater told a teacher’s union official that Wasserman could be fired if the protest continued.

“I can’t jeopardize health insurance for my family,” said Wasserman, 36. “I want to still hold by my morals, which I feel very strongly about. But I have a family to think about.”

In a statement released to The Associated Press on Wednesday evening, Rainwater noted the district was required by state law to fulfill the federal requirement.

“It is part of every teacher’s duty to administer the test,” he said. “Any failure to fulfill this required duty would be considered insubordination and subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

Robert Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, a national group that opposes the overuse of standardized tests, said he was unaware of any other teachers who have refused to administer tests to protest No Child Left Behind. Other teachers have boycotted high-stakes state tests used for graduation or promotion, he said.

“It is an act of moral courage, and it certainly helps call attention to the widespread misuse of standardized testing,” he said. “The natural bureaucratic reaction is always to threaten people with severe sanctions. That’s why people have to have the moral fiber to put themselves at risk.”

Wasserman, who has taught in the district for six years, said he is being treated unfairly because his colleagues at Sennett Middle School could administer the test without him.

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press


Ed said...

Why should his colleagues, who most likely also object to the testing, have to administer the test on his behalf? What good does that do?

He's right about one thing, though. The No Child Left Behind act is not about educating children. NCLB is just one more example of how everything, EVERY THING, that Bush has done during his presidency has served to make huge amounts of money either for him, his family or his croneys (Halliburton, for example). NCLB requires schools to administer specific tests. These tests cost millions of dollars each year. Guess who gets paid for these tests? Mcgraw-Hill, that's who. Care to guess what family is personal friends with the Bush family and of what company they're part owners? I don't think I need to tell you, but I'll give you a hint - it's not, at least as far as I know, the Hill family.

poodledoc said...

ed, what if they gave a test and no one came?

Suzy said...

I think that would be great, but unfortunately, Art the Fart Rainwater is right when he says that teachers are bound to administer the tests. I think the refusal to do them CAN start with parents exempting their kids. Did you know you have the right to do that?

The guy from FairTest says that teachers who are refuseniks have to have moral fiber. Unfortunately, it sounds as if that's what Mr. Wasserman was lacking. At least in the newspaper -- and it might have been taken out of context -- he sounded a little whiney about it, saying that "Nobody told him he could be fired for his actions." I believe when you take a moral stance like that (and I agree with him on NCLB) you have to be prepared for consequences, whatever they may be. I would have been happier if he said, "Damn right, I stand behind my action" even if in the end he backed down because he couldn't afford to lose his job. If 50 Madison teachers participated in the action, it might have been more effective, because they can't fire everyone. LOTS of teachers feel as he does, but I wonder if his colleagues don't feel just a little dumped on. I'm not even sure he did a good job publicizing how bad NCLB is for kids.

My idea is, next year teachers could wear buttons that say, "Testing under duress."

Incidentally, his discipline is a letter of reprimand in his permanent file.

Gartenfische said...

I like Suzy's suggestion that teachers wear "Testing under duress" buttons. That way, they can protest without losing their jobs (although they'll probably be chastised for teh buttons).

Suzy said...

I think we have a Constitutional right to wear buttons.

Gartenfische said...

Yeah, but these are new times we're living in! I have heard of people being arrested for wearing t-shirts with words that the powers-that-be didn't like. (Not that you'll be arrested, just sayin'.)

That just reminded me--our city was fighting a new Wal-Mart last year and people were told that they would be arrested (yes!) if they wore anti-Wal-Mart t-shirts to City Council meetings. Unbelievable.