An Open Letter to Superintendent Nyland from the Opt Outs


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

9 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Superintendent Nyland from the Opt Outs

  1. Why Seattle School Board hired this man after his cock ups is beyond me. Marysville was SO glad to see him go. I was THRILLED to leave Marysville, a district I graduated from and loved teaching in until the likes of him and Whitehead got their greedy mits into it. He was the same there. Don’t want to do it my way, then leave. He did nothing to bring the teachers together. He lied in newsletters home to the community. He had his “pet projects” and it didn’t matter if the project was an abject failure, he would spin it in such a way that it was sunshine and roses. How many people in Marysville heard about the “Award Winning School” at Getchell? Yeah, it won an architecture award not academic awards. If anything good went on at the smaller schools it sure wasn’t through him, but through the amazing and dedicated teachers, para-educators, and support staff. He just ignored all current studies and threw that together, put it on his resume, then sat back and gloated about even when some of the schools had so few students that they truly weren’t able to fund themselves. (He lied about that too, insisting that all class sizes were equal, apparently forgetting that teachers have the ability to talk with each other and say “words” and ask “questions” and “count” and things like that.)

    This letter is amazing. The SBAC is only helping line the pockets of the test makers and the politicians who are supported by them. They aren’t helping our kids. They are hurting them. They are removing choice for our high school students. I teach a career training program where students from my class are ready for entering college in their second year or go directly to work, yet testing leaves fewer and fewer eligible for taking courses like mine. Continue to opt out, but remember when you vote that things like this start in the state and federal house and senate so pay attention to who is rah rah let’s turn out generation after generation of test takers with General Anxiety Disorder who aren’t ready for college because they haven’t done any exploration of potential jobs or careers in school. Oh do NOT get me started on either topic (Nyland or testing).

    1. What happened is that school board president Sharon Peaslee decided t hire him before he could be vetted and pushed it through.

      There was an outcry by me and many others.

      That’s what happens when the community doesn’t
      have the opportunity to meet and review a superintendent candidate.


  2. Love this parents letter. Just a comment…don’t mistakenly think that all principals are going to give fair appraisals. Some are incompetent, some are just vindictive if they perceive their staff have opinions that they don’t agree with. Teaching has become an ugly business that does not focus on the success of our children. Teachers are giving all they have and then some but the tests can’t measure success.

  3. “You silenced your teachers and threatened them with insubordination charges if they spoke out publicly”


  4. An excellent response to the nonsense testing ,thanks to Coumo and money hungry corporations. I am not against appropriate testing, but this is a farce. Teachers should be evaluated by their principals, as they are the professionals who really can observe what is transpiring in the classroom. I hope the legislators revoke Coumo’s ridiculous teacher Evaluation plan, as it is simply a source of retaliation from the governor. I am a retired teacher of 35 years and tests will never show the
    love , concern , empathy, encouragement etc. a teacher can impart in a child’s life.
    I became a teacher because I was inspired by my teacher, when Life seemed to have little meaning. My daughter now teaches, and no test can measure her dedication to her students and her job. I pray that parents will ban together and insist on changes that will benefit their children.

  5. Reblogged this on donotmalignme and commented:
    If only this were an isolated incident of one superintendent building a culture of fear and not a pervasive problem found throughout the country. Shameful. How do they live with themselves and sleep at night?

    1. It happened with our Broad superintendent Goodloe-Johnson, it happened in DC with Broad’s girl Michelle Rhee and it happened in Atlanta with Broad Supe Beverly Hall. In Atlanta, that’s the reason all of those teachers went to prison. There was an unhealthy environment of fear that was pervasive in all of those cases.

      Those teachers in Atlanta were afraid for their professional lives. Too bad the two who were the truly guilty ones, the perpetrators, Eli Broad and Beverly Hall, weren’t sentenced and led to prison.

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