Seattle Teacher Says Tests Kill Learning

"I was stunned there was no focus on basic skills," he told "The testing was never about facts or any real learning. It was very airy and fuzzy."

"It's not a standardized test at all," said Allen, 39, who now teaches in Tennessee and has "no problem" with achievement tests.

A Good Tool

But Joe Willhoft, the state's assistant superintendent for assessment and student information, told that the WASL is a good tool for measuring student achievement.

Only half the questions on the test require a written response, and experts make sure they have no "unfair and biasing features," Willhoft said. "For example, we don't use the words 'tennis' or 'golf.'"

Willhoft admits that some districts and teachers may exert undue pressure on children to perform.

"I don't think we are getting an overabundance of pressure from parents," he said. "But I do think teachers may feel the need to overmotivate students, and it's my hunch some comes from principals."

"Frankly, kids do well if they are somewhat motivated, but there is such a thing as being overmotivated," he said. "If students are taught state standards, the best we can do for the students is say, 'Here is the test, go ahead and do the best you can.'"

Meanwhile, he said teachers like Chew must comply with federal and state law. "We are disappointed this teacher made those particular choices," Willhoft said.

Chew, who is 60, said his act of civil disobedience will cost him about $1,000 over his nine-day absence. He knows it will go on his permanent record and he could ultimately be fired.

"It took me a few moments before I decided to do this," he said. "I did protesting around the Vietnam War and marched for civil rights in the '60s. But this was the first time I did something against a seemingly huge machine."

"I feel so strongly about this -- that it's bad for the kids and I have to do it," he said. "But I know from my own experience, I have to accept the consequences."

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