Seattle Teacher Says Tests Kill Learning

"Our expectation is that all schools will administer any and all state-required tests," he told "I am a parent as well. I think accountability is something we should definitely stress within the school district. We need to know where the children are academically and ensure that they reach levels they need to reach to move forward."

Teacher Is Hero

The popular Washington teacher is now a hero among national critics of the controversial 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which has faced numerous court challenges and has been actively opposed by state teacher unions and many school districts.

President Bush's sweeping education reform law, which is up for reauthorization, aims to narrow the achievement gap between disadvantaged and other students and to make schools more accountable. It requires states to set standards and assessments and mandates annual testing in reading and math for grades 3 through 8.

"Some children handle these tests well and some are sent over the edge," said Walter Gilliam of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine. "What we need is good research."

Gilliam said No Child Left Behind places the wrong emphasis on accountability.

"It's one thing if we have tests for the sake of improving instruction for children," he told "But it's quite another thing to give a test for the sake of holding adults accountable. What I would rather see is observing teachers as they teach, rather than shouldering it on children."

The WASL is given each spring to students in grades 3-8 and grade 10, and covers reading, writing, math and science. Starting this year, students had to pass reading and writing on the 10th-grade exam to graduate from high school. Students are graded as "below, meeting or exceeding" standards

"The teachers really play it up," said the father of a fourth-grader in the Lake Washington School District. He didn't want to be identified for fear of reprisals against his daughter.

"About three weeks ago we started getting e-mails from the other parents about bringing in brain food to support the kids through this tough period," he told "I thought it was pathetic to put 9-year-olds into that kind of test environment."

Test 'Serves No Purpose'

His district in Redmond serves highly competitive parents, many of whom work for Microsoft, which is headquartered there.

"They put pressure on kids to perform well," he said. "But the test serves no purpose. It's nothing more than a benchmark for the state. It's connected to money and teachers, who are clearly ranked. It does nothing for children."

Donald C. Orlich, professor emeritus of education at Washington State University and author of "School Reform: The Great American Brain Robbery," agrees the WASL is a "dreadful" test.

"It's a very poorly constructed test," he said. "There is a very high correlation between how well a student can read and do math. For those who are economically disadvantaged, they don't even have the vocabulary."

Orlich's research echoes one of Chew's complaints: that the WASL unfairly uses "white, upper-middle class language."

"I want to nominate him for teacher of the year," Orlich said. "In my book I call for that kind of behavior. We need nonviolent strikes against WASL."

One such teacher was Robert Allen, a middle school teacher in Arlington County, Wash., who was asked to resign after telling parents they could opt out of the WASL test.

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