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Last Bell - Suspended in Seattle - We Stood Up to Unfair Testing

We were punished for protecting our kids.

By Juli Griffith and Lenora Quarto


Lenora Quattro (left) and Juli Griffith with some of their students.

We protected our special education students from the Washington state test at the request of their parents. For that, our district wants to punish us.

The two of us team-teach 12 students, K-5, in a self-contained classroom for students with multiple disabilities.

In 2007, we were told to administer the Washington Alternate Assessment System to our students in grades 3-5, and we did. It took nearly three months because the test had to be given a little at a time, to each student individually. Meanwhile, our other six children were with our assistants.

Although the test was modified, it measured our students achievement against grade level standards. Because our students are cognitively at ages six months to two years, the assessment was not at their level. It had nothing to do with the goals and objectives designed for them.

Our goal might be to teach them to hold a spoon or recognize their name in print, and the test covered fractions. In fact, one student would start crying every time we got to the part on fractions.

So last year, we described the test to the parents. They said it was ridiculous. One said, “If I had known you were doing this, I would have told you to stop.” Another said, “I’m sick of tests that tell what my child can’t do. I want to see what he can do.”

We did our own research and found that parents do have a right to refuse state assessments. Since the parents had expressed their opinions to us, we thought this was all that was needed. So we didn’t give the test.

The way the district sees it, we were given a directive and didn’t follow it. The reason why held little significance to them.

The district feels we influenced the parents. Nothing could be further from the truth. As teachers, our job is to work with parents and guardians and, with informed minds, determine what is best for their child.

Administration did not contact the parents to ask whether they wanted their children tested, nor did they tell us the parents request had to be in writing — not until our first meeting about suspending us for 10 days without pay.

Once we knew they wanted the refusal requests in writing, we got them. At our second meeting with administration, we and our Seattle Education Association representative presented these letters.

We were confident that once administration saw our parents' wishes in writing, they would know why we did not administer the test. We were wrong.

With support from the Seattle Education Association and the Washington Education Association, we are appealing the district's 10-day suspension.

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