Common Core Standards SBAC testing, the bully principal…and more


Public school is based on the the principle of inclusion, not exclusion. Kids are accepted however they arrive through the front door. Different ethnic backgrounds, economic status, personal triumphs or challenges –everyone is on equal footing. Most importantly, serving the needs of each and every students is job one. Excluding children or using them to meet the personal objectives of the adults who run the school or district, violates the core mission of our public schools. That’s why we find two recent events at Denny Middle School so disturbing.

First, Jeff Clark, Principal of Denny International Middle School and promoter of Teach for America populating his school, made the controversial decision to deny kids –whose parents had opted them out of the SBAC–access to the school carnival. Principal Clark’s decision has provoked understandable outrage in the parent community. This story was first reported by Melissa Westbrook on Save Seattle Schools Community Forum, after a parent contacted her reporting the incident.

Follow up reporting included an explanation by Jeff Clark of his actions and a response by Director Marty McLaren, school board member for District 6, West Seattle.

From Principal Jeff Clark:

The 2015 My Best Performance Carnival at Denny International Middle School


In addition to many special activities throughout the year, for the past ten years, Denny has hosted a carnival at the end of the state testing period for those scholars who have given their best performance. The scholars’ effort is tracked on a form called the “My Best Performance Rubric,” a copy of which is located in their student planners. The rubric includes categories such as:


·        positive attitude

·        time management

·        reading instructions carefully

·        making an attempt on every task and persevering

·        resourcefulness

·        using resources and tools

·        written presentation


After each testing session, scholars fill out their assessment of how they performed in all these areas.


The rubric is then turned into their teacher for review. At the end of the testing period those rubrics are submitted to administration that accumulates the results to establish the eligibility list for the carnival.


For this activity, due to the way in which eligibility is earned through self-reflection and teacher review every day of testing, scholars who did not give their best performance and those who opted not to participate for non-medical reasons were not eligible.

With every incentive that we have at Denny, based on our systems, scholars have the opportunity to practice agency and appeal in order to participate. This year all of the scholars who opted out for non-medical reasons and appealed were granted entry into the carnival.


We had a record high number of scholars participating this year at the carnival. Our school community worked very hard throughout the entire testing period. The My Best Performance Carnival was a great success and enjoyed thoroughly by all.

And then from Seattle School Board Director Marty McLaren:




RE: Opted out students and Denny

Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 19:34:01

Thanks so much for this clarification, Stacy.

I attended the multi-cultural potluck/welcome event for new families at Denny last Thursday, and can bear witness to the fact that Mr. Clark and his staff have created a vibrant sense of belonging, community, and mutual respect at Denny.  This is the foundation on which the academic success of Denny students is built.


Hosting a “My Best Performance Carnival” sends a clear message to kids: do what the adults want or you will be punished. No amount of spin about “rewarding scholars” can remove the taint from this type of sort and punish incentive.

Now, onto the second example of students at Denny Middle School being used to meet the personal objectives of adults in positions of authority. Turns out, testing is far from over at Denny Middle School for 116 ELL students. Why? Because one of Denny’s “grantors to our City Year program needs the data from MAP as part of the funding requirement for next year and they won’t accept SBAC or any of the other data that has been produced this year.” To learn more, please read the following letter sent to the blog:

As a passionate believer in public education I am obliged to sound an alarm because not doing so is a moral failure. What I’m seeing play out in my school right now is indeed alarming.

We currently have two weeks of school left and another round of standardized testing has just been scheduled. Since April the library, which has two class sized computer labs, has been given over completely to testing. Instead of having students come to the library because it has the densest concentration of resources in the school with it books and technology, students are coming because it is a testing center. That is a misapplication of the funding the people of Washington, through its legislature, believe was allocated to promote reading and assist students with research and the completion of class projects, in other words a library program.  

To be fair, students have been able to check out books and on a very limited basis to print papers. This is largely because I am a strong advocate for student access to library resources. But it is easy to imagine a zealous administration bent on completing the necessary 95% tested requirement that is in force from OSPI, completely eliminating student access to maintain a “proper testing environment”.  

Right now SBAC has been completed but the ELL students are taking the STAMP test, and teachers have started sending students into the library to print, figuring that the testing has eased up. But, yesterday we learned that we need to test 116 students because one of the grantors to our City Year program needs the data from MAP as part of the funding requirement for next year and they won’t accept SBAC or any of the other data that has been produced this year. Here is the explanation for this late entry into the data race from the principal’s email,   “At the start of this year, we had planned to take the Amplify test for literacy and MAP test for math for all scholars.  

The Amplify testing has been completed for some time.  The spring math MAP had been planned for June for all scholars to show growth between fall and spring, as we have done for many years in a row.  It had also been written into some of our grants. This year, due to the scope of the SBAC, I decided to try to reduce the amount of math spring MAP testing.  To do this I needed to work with two major grant organizations, the City of Seattle Seattle Families and Education Levy and the Diplomas Now grant.  The City of Seattle staff were able to switch our grant to remove Spring Math MAP.  

The Diplomas Now partnership receives Federal AmeriCorps funding as a major source of funding to pay for City Year Corps members—for this grant, we were not able to make the change to remove Spring Math MAP.  Additionally, we also need to include literacy MAP for scholars on the focus lists.  The end result of this is that we have reduced the number of Denny scholars who are going to take the Spring MAP down to 116 (the group who benefit from direct support by our City Year Corps Members).”

What I see as unfair is this, these 116 students are already some of the most stressed students in the school. Many of them are the same ELL students who are STAMP testing in the very next room. STAMP is in addition to SBAC which is required of all students. ELL students also take the additional  WELPA. Now all of a sudden they have to do MAP, merely to satisfy a foundation hungry for data.

This is exploitative and predatory in my opinion. I envision vampires sucking data from our student body to feed some corporate greed. It seems so clearly wrong to subject these children to this degree of over testing that not resisting it is a moral failure. These children do not understand why they are being tested and their parents don’t even know that they are being tested. It saddens me that our leadership has struck this Faustian bargain with these public/private partnerships and have relinquished so much decision making to out of sight authorities.

Jeff Treistman

When a school principal who will ostracize (banish, exclude, expel, cast out) a student who has worked hard all year and made the grade because they chose to stand up for their rights, something is wrong.

When our English Language Learners are forced to take yet another test, even though the test they just completed could provide the results required by a grant, then something is very wrong.

This culture of testing brought on by corporate ed reform and neoliberal billionaire do-gooders who think they know what’s best for the rest of us and our children, fueled by testing companies and other education enterprises that have been established in response to the demands of assessments and the Common Core (National) Standards, has pushed our students to the brink. These people don’t see our children as human but only as beans to be counted, data to be put into a spreadsheet and guinea pigs to be experimented on.

It’s time to put a halt to this insanity and say “Enough is enough!”

-Carolyn Leith and Dora Taylor

…and replace School Board Director Marty McLaren.


15 thoughts on “Common Core Standards SBAC testing, the bully principal…and more

  1. I don’t see ANY other way that Charlotte’s comment can be interpreted EXCEPT that it is derogatory to the teaching profession when the words, “having education declared a public health hazard” are written. I take great offense as a West Seattle teacher to those words.

    1. I respect that there are those who are seemingly offended by the words chosen in the article and subsequent responses. I have a solution. Instead of choosing to remain offended, why don’t we ALL step back and examine why someone would write, ““[have] education declared a public health hazard”.

      Those are strong words, and while I do not agree with them on any level, I think it’s more important to work through them and change the perspective than to feel outraged that someone has that point of view.

      Isn’t this the point of an providing an education; to have a mature, informed society willing to discuss issues find working solutions, rather than get bogged in indignation?

      While teachers and school administrators are in impossible situations of dealing with children, parents, peers and the insufferable bureaucracy of school district policy-wonks, arbitrary state and Federal mandates, they are not without accountability. (At least, they shouldn’t be.)

      Our child has had great teachers for K-2, but a terrible round of experiences with third grade teachers who have become institutionalized and disengaged from students. They are married to the idea that common core is beyond their control and children must conform to the standards and standardized testing, or just get left behind. In our school, neither third grade teacher has demonstrated an interest in parent engagement. If anything, about 75 percent of the parents at our grade level have expressed deep concern about mandated testing and common core (for a variety of reasons – some logical, some just silly political issues).

      When a school administration and teachers become so disengaged that all they seemingly care about are improving test scores to show school improvement, there’s obviously a disconnect. When parents beg to have access to a teacher to better understand what’s happening in the classroom so they can better help their child(ren) adapt, there’s a problem. It’s not a lack of parent compassion or interest (a least at our school), it’s a lack of desire to engage the parents as partners.

      However, to say that education is toxic and a health hazard only drives a greater wedge between parents and teachers.

      Shouldn’t the goal be to build a team for the child(ren)?

      I think parents, teachers and administrators need to take a time out. The only people acting maturely and wisely in this situation are the students, who are simply trying to exercise what they feel is best for them at the same time that they are trying to obtain a quality education.

  2. “The Diplomas Now partnership receives Federal AmeriCorps funding as a major source of funding to pay for City Year Corps members—for this grant, we were not able to make the change to remove Spring Math MAP. ”

    I find this thorough inergration of testing requirements via the federal government to be quite alarming. Anything to force compliance and build reliance upon testing to create an aura of infallibility of the data gatherers.

  3. Thanks for your work, Dora.

    Diane Ravitch shares this story from the student/ parent perspective:

    “During the last period of the day, my daughter was summoned to the vice principal’s office. She waited for about twenty minutes and was then invited into the office. The vice principal informed my daughter that two of her teachers had emailed her earlier in the day to inquire why she was not on the approved list for the carnival because she had outstanding effort grades(all A’s in effort as well as academics). The vice principal then informed my daughter that she may be able to write a letter of appeal, but she would let her know if that was possible by the end of the period. She explained that she had to follow the rules which were that only students excused from the SBAC for medical reasons would be allowed to attend the carnival. Students who opted out would not be allowed to go because they did not follow the rules.”

    The rest of the story can be found here:

  4. Dora,

    Thank you for this story. As part of normal growth and development, it is essential that middle school students have a sense of belonging. It is absolutely shameful that Principal Jeff Clark would disallow a student from attending an end -of-the year event due to a parental decision. Essentially, the principal was pitting child against parent. (!!)

    As for Director McLaren, it is time for her to exit office. In addition to ramming through a superintendent hiring over a holiday weekend, she has become nothing more than a district apologist, and does not advocate for the best needs of the students. Recently, The West Seattle blog ran a story about the closure of a very important alternative program that serves the needs of high risk students The district disallowed the school from enrolling students and then made a decision to close the school due to low enrollment. This program saves lives.

    Here is what McLaren had to say:

    West Seattle’s school-board rep Marty McLaren, though, told WSB she “couldn’t make a strong case against” closing MCHS-HP.

  5. This comment section is provided to share ideas, thoughts and opinions and is not a place for venting on others, name calling or to display other manners of negative behavior. (Do I sound like a teacher? Well, I am of sorts.)

    Let’s keep it civil and informative.


  6. The fundamental problem regarding the Carnival seems to be HAVING it in the first place. A Carnival should be a reward for learning or a celebration of fun and belonging, not a reward for how well you complied with the corporate agenda..

    The extensive false belief system that has sprung up around DATA (as the new God) is very harmful to our “scholars” who are first and foremost human beings.

    BTW There IS a Child’s Bill of Rights (the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), and Article 2.2 states “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.” This seems applicable here.

  7. I have been thinking a Hippocratic oath for schools…..or perhaps having education declared a public health hazard. I am actually serious.

    1. As an educator I am offended by that comment. I do no harm to my students and strive to provide them with ample opportunities to shine where they are and to reach for their best success. Note I do not define the level of success, they do. Some of us; most of us care very very deeply and to lump all educators together with stupid decisions made by administrators in one district is not only unfair but actually a prime example of bigotry. My job is hard enough fighting with kids to put their best face forward, fighting against the ridiculous testing requirements that aren’t allowing them to explore their passions…but I have to come on one of my favorite educational blogs and find teacher-baiting trolls here too.

      Thanks for that. Great way to end the school year.

      1. Tory,

        I among many others appreciate and respect the teaching profession.

        I’m not sure if the comment was made towards teachers and staff and I will not even try to interpret the writer’s intention.

        Please know that I would not have approved the comment if I thought it was derogatory towards educators.


  8. Dora and Carolyn
    Thanks for the corporate-reform-data. Its obvious we need a West Seattle School Director.
    I can’t believe the cold-hearted, selfish attitude of so-called public servants.


  9. Thank you for this information. I am appalled that they are even allowed to do this to these children. I think it is time for some sort of children’s bill of rights.

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