Both of my children attend schools with amazing teachers. Educators who teach to the whole child, not just the parts which can be measured by standardized tests.

That’s why it burns me up that Superintendent Nyland is threatening Nathan Hale’s teachers for deciding —  in a democratic manner — to boycott the 11th grade SBAC test.

The irony is Washington State’s adoption of the Common Core Standards, with their accompanying assessments, was – to put it politely, less than transparent.

This is the first year teachers in Seattle Public Schools have had a chance to review, in depth, the SBAC — which is the new test tied to the Common Core Standards, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

Now that teachers have seen the SBAC, questions and concerns have surfaced – not only about the quality of the test, but also about its implementation.

Elementary school teachers are concerned the SBAC may not be developmentally appropriate. They are especially worried this assessment could discourage students with IEPs and English Language learners.

According to a report by the Smarter Balanced Consortium, only 15.8% of 3rd graders with IEPs will pass the English Language portion of the SBAC. For English language learners, the pass rate is 13.6%. Overall, only 38.1% of 3rd graders will pass the English language portion of the SBAC.

Teachers are also worried about the loss of instruction time. Many elementary schools have been doing practice tests in technology class since the end of February.

This week, my third grader’s class spent 6 hours on the English language portion of the SBAC. The test was scheduled during math time, which means there was zero math instruction for the last week. (Another 6 hours of testing for the math portion of the SBAC is scheduled for April.)

A Superintendent who was truly interested in student learning, would take this type of feedback from principals and teachers and see if it had merit. If the concerns were valid, the next step would be to work to improve the assessment or – if this wasn’t possible –  de-emphasize the value placed on it.

Instead, Nyland has taken this information and decided the problem is messaging. All of these concerns can be explained away with a FAQ link.

 Some of you have expressed concern about the administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). Concerns have included questions about the utility of the assessment, the instructional time lost due to testing and the likelihood of lower test scores. I encourage you to visit our newly developed Frequently Asked Questions on our district website.

What’s most unfortunate is Nyland’s choice to defend a flawed assessment, rather than the principals, teachers, and students who have to struggle with its shortcomings. Adding insult to injury, if any of these administrators or teachers speak up — acting on their professional judgement, Nyland has decided to threaten them. From Nyland’s memo:

Staff who object to administering the SBA must give advanced notice to their supervisor and work with their supervisor to insure that arrangements are made for SBA administration and coverage. For those who give advanced notice, refusal to give the SBA will be considered as misconduct.

Consequences will be determined after further consideration and review of the CBA. Failure to give advanced notice of your refusal to administer the SBA, will be considered as insubordination and flagrant misconduct, and it will result in the imposition of serious discipline, up to and including termination of your employment and a referral to OSPI to take action on your certificate.

 Did you get that? Defy the SBAC and you will be severely punished.

This approach has a fatal flaw: nothing makes parents angrier than an attack on their kid’s school.

Second, parents know how hard teachers work. We understand teachers aren’t in it for the glory or the money, but truly care about kids.

Superintendents, on the other hand, we aren’t as sure about.

Because of these reasons and more, I have opted my third grader out of the SBAC and stand in solidarity with the teachers, students, and parents of Nathan Hale.

I invite you to do the same.

I would also like to thank Superintendent Nyland for all of the NEW opt out’s his threats to Hale’s teachers will inspire and all of the new likes for the Seattle Opt Out Facebook page.

 We couldn’t have done it without you.

 -Carolyn Leith