We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.
Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.
LIBERATE LEARNING. It is time for us to opt out of Federally mandated, high stakes testing. The whole state. Right now. It is time to return the management of teaching and assessment to our educators, time to stop wasting a river of money on test vendors who deliver meaningless “data,” time to restore trust in our system of public education. Above all, it is time to let our students love learning, to enjoy school. Our schools should be as free of toxic testing as they are of cigarette smoke.
DECLARE INDEPENDENCE. How to do it? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn – Chief Schools Officer in Federal-speak – can sign a letter to our schools and send a copy to the Feds. He’s an independently elected state-wide official. If he’d like political cover, a quick series of public hearings around the state would doubtless generate a groundswell of support.
PUSH BACK HARD. We’d need to preempt a Federal response. Acting on Mr. Dorn’s behalf, our Attorney General might lodge two actions in Federal District Court. The first would seek an injunction against Federal retaliation. We’re already familiar with the retaliatory redirection of Title One funds intended to support the education of our low income students – students who are still here and still poor. The second would sue the Feds to do what they promised to do in the new ESSA. With deep thanks to Senator Patty Murray for the miracles she worked to get this far, we challenge the new Federal education law – the Every Student Succeeds act – as internally inconsistent. The new law restores the principle of state and local control of public schools. But ignoring its own precept, the ESSA renews the Federal requirement for pervasive high stakes testing and continues to insist that 95% of all students participate. Our case to the court: the new ESSA is self-contradictory and interferes with the state’s historic right of local control.
FULLY FUND FULLY FUNCTIONAL SCHOOLS. Removing high stakes testing will immediately improve teaching and learning in our schools and save many $millions. It will eliminate one of the several factors that bias our schools against success by low income and minority students. But we’ll still need to fully fund our schools to the “McCleary” standards. Perhaps our Seattle Ed hosts could next ask us SPI candidates how we propose to fully fund McCleary.
CORRECT OSPI’S ROLE AND TONE. One more step: This writing assignment is triggered by an imperious letter from an unelected Ass’t. SPI who reaches inside a local school district to command remedial action at the level of individual schools. Those actions will certainly disrupt already insufficient budgets, damage student learning, and accelerate our teacher crisis. That’s just as wrong as meddling by the Feds. Constitutional Job One of the SPI and their staff must be to support and protect our school districts, our educators and above all, our students. I ask SPI to rescind the letter and to revisit our state’s Constitution and values.
-Larry Seaquist, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction