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Originally published April 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 21, 2008 at 6:32 PM

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Seattle teacher penalized for refusing to give WASL

A Seattle sixth-grade teacher will spend two weeks on leave without pay for refusing to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning...

Seattle Times education reporter

A Seattle sixth-grade teacher will spend two weeks on leave without pay for refusing to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to his students this month at Eckstein Middle School.

Carl Chew, who teaches science, says the WASL is harmful to students, teachers, schools and families. He considers his decision an act of civil disobedience "against something I felt was ... morally and ethically corrupt."

The WASL, he says, needs to be scrapped and replaced "with a gentler, kinder way of finding out what our students know, and helping teachers educate them better."

Before the WASL started, Chew, 60, told Eckstein's principal that he would not give the exam anymore, and he said they tried to talk him out of it, fearing he would be fired. But he still declined to give the test, and said he was ready to accept the consequences.

He said he spent some of the first few days of WASL testing working at district's Science Materials Center, preparing student science kits.

He then was suspended without pay from today through May 2.

"He failed to follow his duties as teacher," said Seattle Public Schools Spokeswoman Patti Spencer.

The district, she said, expects its teachers to fulfill all their responsibilities, which include giving state-mandated exams such as the WASL.

The district, she added, understands that there are debates over standardized tests such as the WASL, but sees value in the WASL as one way to reflect on what students are learning, and how instruction might need to change for an individual, a school or the district as a whole.

Spencer said the district didn't know of any other cases of teachers refusing to give the WASL.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction didn't either, said spokesman Chris Barron, although Barron said it might not hear about them because such cases would be handled by school districts.

The Parent Empowerment Network, an anti-WASL group, is encouraging supporters to send money to Chew to replace his lost wages.

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Chew, however, said he won't accept that money, and requests that the dollars instead go to local groups that oppose high-stakes, standardized testing.

He said he didn't tell his students about his plans.

"I simply let them know that I had something important to do during the WASL time, and expected them to treat the guest teacher with respect," he said. "And I told them to do well on the WASL.

"Decisions about WASL testing need to be made by teachers, and parents and schools. We are the ones responsible."

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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