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Teacher gives bad lesson with WASL stand

Ohanian Comment: Here's what we're up against. Let us raise our voices in joy that we have a resister in Carl Chew who is able to withstand the heat. By the way. columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. was awarded a fellowship by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Here is the mission statement of the Dart center:

ΓΆ€” Advocates ethical and thorough reporting of trauma; sensitive, professional treatment of victims and survivors by journalists, and greater awareness by media organizations of the impact of trauma coverage on both news professionals and news consumers.

ΓΆ€” Educates working journalists about the science and psychology of trauma and the implications for news coverage through this website, academic research, seminars, workshops and training.

ΓΆ€” Serves as a forum for print, broadcast and Internet journalists to analyze issues, exchange ideas and advance strategies related to reporting on violence and catastrophic stress. We also create and sustain partnerships among media professionals, therapists and others concerned with trauma, and nurture peer-support among working journalists.

Apparently, these concepts didn't rub off.

Are we really asking for a miracle for journalists to be able to see, along with sixth grade teachers such as Mr. Chew, that high stakes testing results in trauma?

How hard is this concept to grasp?

The following diatribe is ugly beyond rationality. Ask yourself how far the columnist has strayed from the mission statement of the Dart Center. Ask yourself who would you like teaching your sixth grader: Mr. Jamieson or Mr. Chew.

Jamieson insists these tests are helpful. If you know of one helpful thing, please e-mail me immediately:

Finally, Mr. Jamieson insists that The last thing public schools need is teachers making or breaking the rules as they go. I would insist that the first, middle, and last thing that public schools need is teachers willing to break rules that harm children, rules shipped into schools from the corporate-politicos. We desperately need teachers willing to stand up and say "NO!" to the corporate raiders and "YES!" to children. Carl Chew, thank you, and may your tribe increase.

By Robert L. Jamieson, Jr.

Nothing is more inspiring than a teacher with passion and principles.

Nothing is more disappointing than when passion causes a principle to
go off track.

Which brings us to Carl Chew, the avuncular sixth-grade Seattle
Public Schools teacher who was just told to take a time out and sit
in the corner.

The district gave Chew a nine-day suspension for refusing this month
to give the WASL to his students at Eckstein Middle School. The test
measures whether students are meeting goals in reading, math, writing
and science as set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Chew, 60, says he has heartfelt reasons for not wanting to give the

Surprisingly, being arrogant and self-indulgent didn't make his list.

And now, it's his students who've gotten left behind -- with a
substitute teacher while Chew, on unpaid leave, chills.

When a teacher signs up for a public school gig in this state, the
WASL -- short for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning -- is
part of the deal.

Chew has just pulled "a Watada" -- a reference to Army 1st Lt. Ehren
Watada, the first commissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces to
publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq because the war, in his opinion, is

In the teaching trenches, the WASL has its supporters, and it has its
critics. The latter say the test is too narrow a look at what makes a
well-rounded student. They say the test is culturally biased,
favoring kids of privilege.

The critics have made their voices heard in the Legislature and local
school board meetings -- appropriate forums for debate.

But the classroom just isn't the place.

Sure, Chew's grandstanding at Eckstein got media attention. The
upshot, though, is more flash-pan heat than reformative light. I feel
for Chew's students, who still have to take the test regardless of
his kerfuffle. He left them in a lurch, placing personal thoughts and
pontification ahead of what the district pays him to do -- educate.

Chew calls his deed an act "of civil disobedience" which cheapens the
legacy of those who took truly courageous stands, facing prison or
death, to address moral injustice and evil laws. His gripes with the
WASL -- that it disrupts learning, that it doesn't help schools do a
better job, that it lassos performance to testing -- are reasonable.
But they are hardly reasons to raise a fist and curse the gods.

Standardized tests everywhere come under fire by someone.

But these tests are also helpful, necessary gauges to measure if kids
are leaving school with more between their ears than when they

Chew seems earnest and committed to public education. He says he's
taking a stand for kids' sakes.

He'd do better staking out Olympia, persuading lawmakers to rethink
the WASL. Or he could do what teachers who think responsibly outside-
the-box do -- take controversy and empower kids to think critically
about it.

Three years ago, students and staff at Rainier Beach High did that
very thing. The young test takers crafted public service videos
critiquing the exam.

The videos put way too much blame on the wrong factors for why the
WASL is a big, bad test. The kids blamed teachers. They blamed
administrators. They blamed the test. The students forgot one thing --
they are accountable, too.

But in light of Chew's huff, I have to give Rainier Beach credit for
at least giving the students a voice.

When Chew threw up his hands, he not only showed conduct unbecoming a
teacher, but he also acted smugly on behalf of students and parents
who actually might -- surprise! -- like the test.

His gesture was off base -- and set a bad precedent.

The last thing public schools need is teachers making or breaking the
rules as they go.

— Robert L. Jamieson, Jr.





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