Dear Superintendent Nyland,
I recently attended a meeting where several SPS teachers spoke candidly about the culture of fear you are cultivating around SBAC testing and I find it to be absolutely appalling. They spoke of the extreme stress and chaos this test is bringing to our schools and how damaging it is for our children. They talked about all of the wonderful learning they had planned for these last few weeks of school and lamented and apologized that instead they will be forcing our children to sit in front of computer screens and take this test day after day. You have failed to stand up and fight for your teachers and have instead aligned yourself with this test and its big money corporate allies. You could have just as easily acknowledged that this was a flawed assessment and offered to work within the system to offer a better choice in the future. You did not. You silenced your teachers and threatened them with insubordination charges if they spoke out publicly. You went as far as to tell our teachers that you would revoke their teaching certificates if they refused to administer this test and assure they never taught again. You crossed the line, and we noticed.
In your refusal to do what’s right for your own staff, and our children, you have shown utter disrespect for these amazing teachers and the challenging work they do every day. We respect our teachers. We hold them in the highest regard. Ironically, my daughter’s class is taking SBAC twice during Teacher Appreciation Week. Her teacher is utterly amazing. That he is losing at a minimum of 5 class days in May is heart wrenching. So in honor of our teacher and all of the incredible teachers we’ve had in our six years in Seattle Public Schools, we are choosing to Opt Out, refusing to take the SBAC, and we are calling on our friends and neighbors to do the same.
Our daughter is quirky and funny and SMART. She has dyslexia and works slowly but at grade level. But your test will never know that because it asks her questions in a way that are confusing for her to understand. Our daughter can learn a song in one pass through and knows everything there is to know about Greek Mythology. But your test will never know that because it focuses only on reading and math and demands that she type her answers at a speed of 15 words per minute. My daughter loves books and reading. But your test took away her precious library time and turned it into Test Prep Class. My daughter is performing in Shakespeare’s MacBeth with her fifth grade class in a few short weeks, something they have been looking forward to all year. But your test will take them away from the profound learning happening in their classroom for 5 days next month.
Your teachers, our teachers, know how our daughter is progressing in the classroom and they regularly communicate this to us. These teachers are capable, competent, and knowledgeable of child development and best practice. They do not desire the input of SBAC results to inform their teaching.
In honor of the upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week, this is what we have to say to our talented, and highly competent teachers:
You have been there with us. Fighting for our daughter, every step of the way, for six years. You emailed us late at night and on the weekend and always took our calls, and handed us tissues in our meetings when we started to cry.
You believed in our daughter, above all, even when the tests said she was a “failure”. Our daughter, became your daughter too, and when she triumphed, as you knew she would, you celebrated with us. You have been silenced. We will stand up and fight for you.
My daughter recently wrote a poem for her 5th grade teacher, so I’ll leave you with this:
You are Zeus, King of men and gods,
You are Chiron, a great teacher.
You are Sisyphus, a wise leader.
You are our teacher, and you are no myth!
Shawna Murphy & Christian Peetz
Aka The Opt Outs