There’s No Such Thing as a Free Breakfast by Juanita Doyon

Submitted by Juanita Doyon

“You can test some of the children all of the time. You can test all of the children some of the time. But there just ain’t no Lake Woebegone, man!”

Things Abraham Lincoln would say if he were a teacher in the twenty-first century.

I had the privilege of attending a free breakfast and school administrator training session put on by Washington State’s Partnership for Learning—education arm of the Washington [business] Roundtable—recently. The fruit and bagel were a privilege. It was downhill from there.

Apparently, the Partnership people didn’t study their basics of Lincolnian sociology very well. They and their comrades throughout the nation believe that if we test all the children all the time, label 60% “in need of improvement,” require the next bunch of kids in each of thirty-seven “cells” to decrease that 60% by 10%, wiggle our noses and click our heels together (instead of spending an appropriate amount of money in classrooms), and lay off more than a few teachers while paying for busing to better schools that don’t exist, then, by 2014, 100% of our children will be meeting standards on tests that have yet to be independently studied for validity and reliability for any purpose.

Got that? Scary!

Current testing standards really put the psycho in psychometrician. As a parent, I refuse to allow my children to take part in the data gaga insanity. I have twins in tenth grade. Fortunately, it’s still legal for parents to have a say in the education of their children in my state, so I’m having a say. I also encourage other parents to use this state-given opt out right before we lose it. I learned that this will have no effect on the 95% take the tests or else requirements in No Child Left Behind, because my children receive zeros, as if they were tested. Voila! 100% participation! Math for the 21st century.

Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) is administered statewide to virtually every student in the grades tested. During the panel section of the Partnership event, one brave administrator asked why English Language Learners must now be tested whether they have reached English proficiency or not, with a test in English. The excuse: Federal law requires it.

The Washington Education Association is fighting the WASL passage graduation requirement, which is scheduled for the class of 2008, and problems with the test in general. They call for fourteen or fifteen changes. The state board’s committee on the Certificate of Mastery delivered a very mixed final report. Any members of the committee who had direct contact with students found that the WASL is valid and reliable for only some students, so should not be used as a graduation requirement for all students. The Partnership for Learning and state education department have a grand solution to all this controversy. They call it “the hook.” The hook involves paying Washington teachers to grade the tests so they understand how valid and reliable the test is. With take-home pay flat lining while health insurance costs rise again, this may be the only way our teachers can afford to keep their day jobs.

If we pay teachers to understand that scoring of essay questions can be objective, will it suddenly be okay for the Business Roundtable and the federal government to rule local schools? I think not.

The prevailing assumption in our state and national capitols is that local adults do not know how to educate children and will never do the right thing without a government wielded hammer. Local adults can’t be trusted. If we allow this takeover of our local public schools and the lives of our children, we prove this assumption correct. The Partnership for Learning, in league now with just about every education association in the state including the PTA, will be starting up a “Campaign for the Class of 2008” very soon. This includes mailings to the homes of every 8th grader in the state, to their teachers and their schools. It includes “meetings in a box” for the induction of parents and teachers. It’s time for local adults to take charge and start standing up against the child abuse being mandated by OUR government. It’s time to dump the tests and the free fruit and rolls into the Sound and take back our schools.

Juanita Doyon is the Washington Coordinator for the Assessment Reform Network, organizer of Mothers Against WASL, a candidate for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the author of Not With Our Kids You Don’t! Ten Strategies to Save Our Schools, Heinemann, 2003. Email

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