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And a Teacher Shall Lead Them

Susan Notes:

In Seattle, sixth grade teacher Carl Chew refused to give the destructive WASL test.

Here is the saga, described by Carl

by Carl Chew


Email to staff and administration at Eckstein last Wednesday:

Dear All,
Well, I have decided to put my mouth and job where my heart and mind are. I have decided not to give the WASL this year. Thanks for your understanding. Carl


After threats of possible termination I wrote this to my principal:

Dear Kim,
I would like to make it clear in writing that I look forward to performing my normal science teaching at Eckstein during the WASL testing weeks. I am declining to administer the WASL to my students on moral and ethical grounds, but during the times my students are testing if you need me to perform any other non-WASL related duties I will be pleased to do so. I am proud to be part of the Eckstein community, value my students, co-teachers and administrators immensely, and strive daily to be the best possible teacher I can be.
Carl Chew


The weekend was pretty long and nerve wracking. I communicated with other test resistors around the country and they gave me a wealth of courage.

Monday saw a stream of administrators trying to convince me to change my mind.


Here is what happened Tuesday, the first day of WASL (taken from an email to Juanita Doyon, Don Perl, Yvonne Siu-Runyan, Susan Ohanian, and Patricia Lang):

Many, many thanks for your support. These last few days have been nerve benders!
I think my civil disobedience went pretty well this morning. I am still not absolutely sure of the final outcome, but am fairly confident they have done what they are going to do, which is, for a better word, banishment for an undisclosed period to the hinterlands (also known as the Science Materials Center).
Early this morning SEA president Wendy Kimball came by my school to make sure I understood all the possible consequences. I assured her I did. She then seemed to indicate that SEA would represent me if I needed them to. She seemed guardedly supportive.

One thing I have noticed is just how scared everyone is to say what they actually feel! What a climate of apprehension and suppression there is! A few teachers seem fearful that if they even look at me they will be reprimanded somehow.

At the bell the principal and her district supervisor showed up at my door and summoned me into the hall (now I really know how the students feel!). The supervisor informed me that they would let me keep my room key and she gave me the address where I was to report until they "figured out what to do with me." They then escorted me to an exit. On the way I told the school principal I was sorry to have caused her any distress and that I respected her vision for our school and looked forward to working with her in the future. I was thinking at that moment though, what a difficult situation she was in, too. Regardless of her views about high stakes testing, NCLB has got her and every other principal super paranoid that their every move is being watched. Whew!

is the link to my Web site. You will all see that I, like you, have used my time on this planet to explore, create, and think, as well as teach and work with children. Aren't we lucky!
Thanks for helping me keep breathing!

Lots of emails have been coming in and I am seeing how much parents and other teachers need those of us who are willing and able to stand up and be counted.


Your emails have given me so much hope and strength. Tomorrow I will meet with the Seattle School District to learn of my fate. Frankly, I am glad that in a personal way I am helping air out a rotten situation that affects us all.

At the moment I am "banished" to the SSD Science Materials Center. I have enjoyed meeting the employees who have been wonderful to me. Early this morning they set me to the task of sorting multicolored blocks for pre-schoolers. Fun! I was working alone in a very cold part of the warehouse. Through the door came a representative from the district to deliver the letter telling of Thursday's meeting. She stopped and exclaimed, "It is soooo cold in here!" Then she looked at me and asked, "What are you doing? Sorting blocks?" She handed me the letter, pulled her coat up higher, and left. I can see the headlines now, "Fallen Science Teacher Now Sorts Blocks."

Tomorrow is a big day, I will let you know what happens.


Dear Test Resistors,

First, thank you so much for all the emails coming from all over the US. When I get a little jumpy I just remember every one of you is by my side.

I began my morning at 7 AM at the Science Materials Center. Today I cut up small pieces of burlap for an elementary science kit. I started with a several meter long piece and reduced it to 654,714 (actually, who knows how many) little squares. Then I counted out the squares into groups of 75 and stuffed them into plastic bags. Believe me when I say that my hat really goes off to the people who day in and day out keep those kits stocked!

I left at noon to drive down to the district headquarters.

I thought the meeting with SPS legal this afternoon was going to be judgement day for me. No such luck. I now know there is a process they have to go through. Today was simply repeating all the allegations and getting me to say, "Yes, that is true." I had a hard time believing that I wasn't going to learn anything new! I told them it was rather stressful to be continually told that I could be terminated, but not have anything really happen. They told me they would "express" my case.

One not so good thing was that SEA brought up the topic of my teaching certificate, and asked the district to ask the state to not revoke it. I have to say, this was the first time I felt like something truly painful might happen to me other than not seeing my students again. Advice was given to me later that there was a very real possibility it would be revoked because what I have done is termed "gross insubordination." I said, "You mean super duper gross insubordination?" "Yes," was the reply.

They asked me what I wanted to have happen. I said that I wanted to be back with my students teaching as soon as possible. Everyone was taking serious notes.

I asked to be put on leave until their decision so I could ease my stress with a few walks. SEA asked for paid administrative leave. It was denied. Turns out, if I had committed a crime of some sort and they were investigating I would be paid, but because I chose to do something legal I would not be paid. Go figure.

This really is not that easy. Many thanks to those of you who warned me of this fact in advance! I want you to know that it is a very joyful experience none the less!

When I was walking up the stairs to the meeting I passed a sign. It was a quote from Jaime Escalante, "The greatest thing you have is your self image, a positive opinion of yourself. You must never let anyone take it from you." When the lawyer asked if I had anything to add to the record I pulled out the laminated green sign. "I found this right here in the stairwell and I want it in the record." Then I read the quote out loud.


Carl Chew


Dear All,

"Thank you" to everyone who has stood by and stuck up for me. I read just minutes ago that the final ruling by the superintendent was two weeks without pay.

Of course, the superintendent mentioned I would have to give the WASL next year. No way!

I am excited to see where the story goes now, and I am looking forward to helping other teachers and parents resist the seductive temptation of high stakes testing!

Carl Chew

Since Carl's principled stand costs him two weeks pay, grateful teachers and parents from around the country might want to send him a small token of appreciation.

— Carl Chew
Seattle Teacher


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