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Special-Ed Teachers Suspended for Refusal to Give Test

NOTE: The behavior of these school administrators has become Outrage of the Day for two days in a row. The Parent Empowerment Network issued a press release yesterday.

This is another example of the corporate- politico model of education. Seattle Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson is is a graduate of the Broad Foundation's Urban Superintendent Academy.

The teachers are trying to act professionally and honor the parents' request that children be treated in a developmentally appropriate manner. The details of a one-size-fits-all testing policy are truly sickening.

By Marc Ramirez

The Seattle School District has suspended two special-education teachers
for refusing to give required assessment tests to six students at Green
Lake Elementary, despite orders from the principal to do so.

Lenora Stahl and Juli Griffith each were suspended for 10 days without
pay for not following through with training and reports required for the
Washington Alternative Assessment System (WAAS), a version of the
Washington Assessment of Student Learning intended for students with
special needs.

"I understand that you are taking this position as a matter of
principle," says a March 2 letter to the teachers from Seattle Schools
Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. But because giving the test is a
state requirement, "you as a member of our staff have a responsibility
to do so."

The suspension runs through March 16.

The teachers say they merely followed the wishes of the parents, who
exercised their rights ΓΆ€” verbally at first, then in writing ΓΆ€” to have
their children "opt out" of the exam.

"They're sticking up for my kid and what I want for my child," parent
Rachel McKean said. "They know what he can and can't do. They're not
just going out on a limb."

Goodloe-Johnson's letter said the teachers didn't tell the district of
the parents' involvement until disciplinary hearings had begun.

"With any students, but particularly those with special needs, and
especially in instances when we have a federal and a state mandate to
follow, documentation is essential," Seattle Schools spokeswoman Patti
Spencer said.

Stahl and Griffith are teaching partners at Green Lake, with a class of
11 special-education students. Many are far below their various
classifications as kindergarten through fifth-grade level. Some are
prone to seizures or have respiratory issues.

McKean's son Jackson, 10, has hydrocephalus and uses a wheelchair. In
four-plus years at Green Lake, he has learned to feed himself, hang up
his jacket and not to scream when he hears loud noises. "My kid is
basically the equivalent of a toddler," McKean said. "You wouldn't ask a
toddler these questions when they can't do it. ... You wouldn't give a
kid a test that is years beyond what they can do."

According to Nate Olson of the state Office of the Superintendent of
Public Instruction, the WAAS can be tailored to students' individual
needs, but parents and teachers dispute that. Because the test is
grade-level-based, they say, it's inappropriate for students with severe
cognitive disabilities.

"It's really not a one-size-fits-all for kids," Stahl said. "It doesn't
mean we don't have high expectations; we do. They're just not there yet."

She and Griffith first raised concerns about the test last fall, Stahl
said, after parents told them they didn't want their children taking the
exam. The two teachers wrote the district asking to work together to
create a more appropriate test for their children, but received no
response, she said.

Many of the children had taken the test the previous year, Stahl noted,
and all received zeros. "They're automatically being set up for
failure," she said.

When McKean's son was given the exam last year, she said, he just sat
there. "He doesn't read or write," McKean said. "... He's just learning
how to draw straight lines. But doing a two-plus-two math problem, he
doesn't really understand."

When Principal Cheryl Grinager directed the teachers to complete the
required exam preparation, they refused ΓΆ€” again, Stahl said, in
deference to parental wishes.

She said the "opt-out" process never was explained to them fully, so
they didn't know until January, when they were called to a disciplinary
hearing, that written parental requests were required. By mid-February,
the teachers had collected written letters from the parents, but the
disciplinary process continued. The two are appealing the suspension.

While the appeal may restore their lost pay, Stahl said, "we can't get
back the time we lose in the classroom. The bottom line is, they're
punishing the students."

— Marc Ramirez
Seattle Times





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