Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Teacher refuses to give standard test

Ohanian Comment: All Wisconsin teachers should join David Wasserman. . . as an example for the rest of the nation to follow.

Here is an open question to all teachers: What are the personal and professional consequences of continuing to do something you know is immoral? This is a question everyone who belongs to a professional organization should ask the leaders of that organization. Our professional organizations have laid low for entirely too long.

by Ryan J. Foley
Associated Press

A Sennett Middle School teacher who refused to administer a standardized test required under the federal No Child Left Behind law said he will give the test today after being told he could be fired for refusing again.

David Wasserman, a teacher in the district for six years, said he was never officially notified before his decision not to give the test that doing so could result in his termination.

"I was given no warning, " he said. "I was given no you could be fired. ' "

Instead of giving students the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam on Tuesday, Wasserman sat in the teacher 's lounge, leaving his colleagues to oversee the test for his eighth-grade students.

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 are labeled as failing to make progress and can face sanctions.

Wasserman said he believes the test uses questions that are disconnected from what students learn in the classroom. And its results, he said, are not used in any meaningful way to improve teaching but instead become the primary way the district and media evaluate the quality of a school.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Superintendent Art Rainwater noted the district was required by state law to fulfill the federal mandate.

"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. "

Wasserman said in light of that, he will give the test.

"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. "

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 said he is being treated unfairly because his colleagues at Sennett Middle School could administer the test without him. And he said he was appalled that Rainwater had not directly warned him about consequences even though school officials have been aware of his protest for days.

Wasserman said he has a meeting scheduled with district human resources officials and the teachers union Thursday to discuss the situation.

"He is threatening to fire me before even hearing or considering what I 'm even saying and isn 't giving my administration the leeway at all to administer the test in anyway they want, " Wasserman said. "I 'm still just shocked. "

Wasserman said that since he started his protest he 's heard form "dozens " of fellow teachers who sympathize with his position.

" I believe the same exact thing " is what I 'm hearing, " he said.

State Journal reporter Chris Rickert contributed to this report.

— Ryan J. Foley
Associated Press


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.