With President George W. Bush's tenure in office coming to a close, I wonder if more teacher unions will retaliate against state superintendents. In Washington state, Snohomish County teacher unions are weighing "no confidence" votes against Terry Bergeson, the current state superintendent.
The article focuses on the local unions' disagreement over the WASL, the state's stadardized test. Bergeson has continued to support the WASL despite so many teachers who want it gone, and despite major changes being made by Governor Christine Gregoire.
The article states, "Some teachers don't want the WASL to be a graduation requirement. They believe the test devours too many resources and puts too much pressure on students and teachers." Because I taught in Washington for four years, I know that the WASL does consume a signficant amount of teaching time.
I taught English at a large high school. The WASL forced me to teach basic reading skills like summarizing, identifying the main idea, drawing conclusions, and responding to literature. Additionally, the WASL made me teach my students how to write an expository and persuasive essay. It is difficult to imagine that such a test exists. The pressure consumed my life.
The President of the Mukilteo Teacher's Union claims, "It doesn't really inform your teaching. When you get the WASL results back, the students have already gone on."
She is only partially correct, which is usually the case in most debates about standardized tests. The WASL did give us information about our students. Where I taught, we created WASL like baseline assessments and other common informative assessments to track our students' progress in relationship to the skills and ultimately the WASL. But in terms of the data from the test, it is true about many state tests that the results come too late. If the results from a state exam are meant to determine our success at teaching skills, and then inform us about how to teach, then we need those scores before we start placing students in classes for the following year.
As with anything in life, a balance must be found. But getting rid of such exams simply because teachers want to be free from the pressures (which means they don't want to be held accountable), is not a good reason.