Our Voice: Teachers' union giving bad advice to parents

April 13, 2014 

The Washington Education Association is using children as pawns.

The teachers' union's latest tactic of encouraging parents to opt-out of standardized testing strikes us as self-serving.

Yes, we have a lot of tests in our school system. Perhaps too many.

Yes, there can be problems such as bias and racial discrimination with many standardized tests.

Yes, we understand that teachers are frustrated by the weight these tests can bear in evaluating their schools.

But it is wrong to recommend children opt out of the tests as a way to promote an adult agenda.

The particular test in question is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. It is a new test coming next year as part of the Common Core Standards.

Last week, the WEA enlisted parents to fight their war against this test. The strategy? Just say no.

But it's not the teachers who are saying no. They are enlisting parents to carry that banner for them.

Most parents don't even realize their students already can opt out of the standardized tests. So it seems especially troublesome to us that the group representing those tasked with providing an education to our children would be spreading that little-known fact -- spreading it and, in fact, encouraging it.

And to what advantage? Are students better off not taking the tests? Does failure to rank a student with the rest of the nation somehow improving his or her learning?

No.

The WEA has legitimate questions about how standardized tests are used to rate teachers and schools.

The state issues report cards for schools across Washington based on test results. Some school districts use the results of standardized tests as part of their teacher evaluation.

If the students test poorly, that is considered in evaluations for teachers, schools and districts, and it's not entirely fair.

In the Mid-Columbia, we are especially sensitive to the role that poverty plays in a child's performance on tests, and with the added difficulties of children who are struggling to learn a second language.

The WEA has fought -- unsuccessfully -- to limit the reliance on standardized tests. But this new stratagem is shortsighted.

From a parent's view, seeing how your child scored on a standardized test helps you see where your child excels and where he or she needs more help.

From the district's point of view, funding can be tied to taking those tests. Students who don't take the test get an automatic zero.

If you are a parent who is considering opting out, think about it again. Have a good reason -- one that benefits your child -- before taking that step.

We will side with the WEA that the system is flawed. The emphasis on standardized testing is not where any of us would like it to be.

But for adults, especially teachers, to hide behind their students is not the way to solve the problem.

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