In 2008 I wrote about two teachers who jeopardized their jobs because they wouldn’t subject their students to high stakes tests.
Doug Ward was a special education teacher in North Carolina and refused to administer the tests to his students with disabilities.
Carl Chew, a 6th grade science teacher in Seattle refused to subject his students to the Washington State test, the WASL.
Today, a new teacher has stood up to the national testing insanity, this time a Kindergarten teacher in Florida. She refuses to waste a week of instructional time giving 45 minute one-on-one computer-based tests to her students.
It’s not about me, says 59-year-old Susan Bowles, this is “about teachers all across the country who are fed up with testing and who can’t teach their students.”
by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams staff writer
Fifty-nine-year old Susan Bowles is joining the call of other educators who refuse to sacrifice critical learning for hours of high-stakes testing. (Photo: Sarah-ji)
Risking her job and life passion, a kindergarten teacher in Florida is taking a stand against the high-stakes takeover of the public school system by refusing to administer the state-mandated standardized test to her young students.
In a letter posted to her personal Facebook page this weekend and later re-posted on the blog Opt Out Orlando, 59-year-old Susan Bowles of Gainesville, Florida explained how the FAIR assessment—which this year was revamped to be a computer-based test—is difficult to administer, unfairly tests the young students’ computer abilities, and ultimately consumes hours and hours of critical classroom time.
This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during this test. Someone has forgotten there are other five year olds in our care. There is no provision from the state for money for additional staff to help with the other children in the classroom while this testing is going on. A certified teacher has to give the test. If you estimate that it takes approximately 45 minutes per child to give this test and we have 18 students, the time it takes to give this test is 13 ½ instructional hours. If you look at the schedule, a rough estimate would be that it requires about one full week of instructional time to test all of the children.
Our Kindergarten teachers have been brainstorming ways to test and still instruct. The best option we have come up with is for teachers to pair up, with one teacher instructing two classes while the other teacher tests one-on-one. So now we are looking at approximately TWO WEEKS of true INSTRUCTIONAL TIME LOST. We will not be putting them in front of a movie or having extended playtime, but the reality is that with 35 students, instruction is not the same. FAIR TESTING IS DONE THREE TIMES A YEAR!
Encouraging others who are equally frustrated with the increasing number of standardized tests to contact Republican Governor Rick Scott and voice their complaint, Bowles adds, “This is not an education problem. This is a state government problem.”
Though some Alachua School Board members have expressed support for Bowles’ action, district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson told the Gainesville Sun that, “Until Florida law changes, we’re under legal obligation to administer (these tests).”
Bowles says she is likely in breach of her contract by not administering the test and is “heartsick over the possibility of losing my job.” However, Bowles she “cannot in good conscience” submit to losing up to six weeks of instruction. She concludes by citing as motivation a similar protest made by a friend and fellow educator “who quit teaching because she could no longer participate in cheating children out of fun, creativity and enriching learning — in the name of education.”
Bowles later told the Sun that her protest is “not about one kindergarten teacher in Florida. It’s about teachers all across the country who are fed up with testing and who can’t teach their students.”
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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.