Tag Archives: education

What would Pippi do on test day?

Under the superintendent’s SERVE proposal, there would be a whole lotta computerized testing. What would Pippi Longstocking do on test day? Just to give you an idea, here’s what she did on her first and only school day. (Don’t worry, she and the teacher parted on good terms.)

Excerpt from Chapter 4: Pippi Goes to School

“Indeed?” said the teacher. “Well, then we shall call you Pippi too. But now,” she continued, “suppose we test you a little and see what you know. You are a big girl and no doubt know a great deal already. Let us begin with arithmetic. Pippi, can you tell me what seven and five are?”

Pippi, astonished and dismayed, looked at her and said, “Well, if you don’t know that yourself, you needn’t think I’m going to tell you.”

All the children stared in horror at Pippi, and the teacher explained that one couldn’t answer that way at school.

“I’m sorry,” said Pippi contritely. “I didn’t know that. I won’t do it again.”

“No, let us hope not,” said the teacher. “And now I will tell you that seven and five are twelve.”

“See that!” said Pippi. “You knew it yourself. Why are you asking then?”

The teacher decided to act as if nothing unusual were happening and went on with her examination.

“Well now, Pippi, how much do you think eight and four are?”

“Oh, about sixty-seven,” hazarded Pippi.

“Of course not,” said the teacher. “Eight and four are twelve.”

“Well now, really, my dear little woman,” said Pippi, “that is carrying things too far. You just said that seven and five are twelve. There should be some rhyme and reason to things even in school. Furthermore, if you are so childishly interested in that foolishness, why don’t you sit down in a corner by yourself and do arithmetic and leave us alone so we can play tag?”

Teachers and district close to an agreement?

It looks like the teachers and the district are close to an agreement. I hope it’s a good one!

In other news, the Washington Post has an article about a study that finds the evaluation method described in the SERVE proposal to be ineffective:


“Student standardized tests are not reliable indicators of how effective the teacher is in the classroom, not even with the addition of new ‘value added’ methods, according to a study released today. It calls on policymakers and educators to stop using test scores as a central factor in holding teachers accountable.”

I’m disappointed in the weaselly language of “as a central factor,” though. If they’re not reliable, they shouldn’t be used at all. Here’s why:

Suppose teacher Alice and teacher Bob have an evaluation that is dictated 10% by the results of their student tests. In all other measures, they come out even, but Alice’s student tests are better (or improve more in the course of the school year). She gets merit pay and Bob doesn’t. Is that fair? Layoffs happen, and Alice gets to keep her job and Bob gets laid off. Is that fair?

Can the teachers get an agreement?

There’s a great article in the Times today explaining the ins and outs of the school district’s controversial SERVE proposal, which would:

– spend $4 million dollars in a tight economy

– take over the library for 9 weeks of the school year

– add up to 14 early-release days, which parents would have to scramble to cover

– increase “teaching to the test”

Here’s the article:


Seattle teachers: what’s all the fuss about?

A week ago, I got a message from the NE Mom’s list about a new proposal introduced by the school superintendent. My last blog post has the text of that message. Since then, I’ve had a busy time getting up to speed on the facts and the issues. There’s a lot of information to wade through!

The key sticking point is a proposal called SERVE, which would base teachers’ evaluations partly on a computerized student test on math and reading. It’s an improper use of the test, even according to the testing company. What scares me about it is that in other cities, teachers have been fired after their students receive poor scores. If you’re a parent, please get informed ASAP. The Seattle Council PTSA site has links to the arguments for and against SERVE at:


There’s more info at:


There are some important dates coming up:

August 31st – teacher’s union hopes to reach an agreement with the district

September 1st – board meeting

September 2nd – teachers vote on whether to approve the labor contract

I feel like we as parents need to be supporting teachers right now. In the next couple days, I’ll be posting updates & links to what folks are doing. In the meantime, if you want to organize to help parents support teachers, drop me a note.

Seattle teacher’s letter about SERVE proposal

Here’s a letter I got a week ago through a Seattle mom’s listserv. I don’t know which teacher wrote it, but it reflects the concerns of a lot of teachers.

– – – –

Dear Parents of children I have taught,

There is a new system that is steamrolling into our school district, into our classrooms, and into the relationships that I have with each of my students. This system, driven by standardized tests, will change the classroom environment dramatically. I am asking for you to make your voices heard on this issue.

As you may already know, Seattle Public Schools is prioritizing its focus and funding on ways to make teachers “more accountable” by linking student test scores to teacher evaluation and compensation.

But the elephant in the room is: Are these high quality tests? Do we want teachers to give them highest priority? Tests such as the Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) test finite skills, which can be useful for a teacher in designing instruction, but let’s not be

misled: it does not test how an individual child is developing skills of critical thinking, creativity and problem solving, or independent and teamwork skills—cornerstone qualities of the most successful members of our society.

As a successful lifelong learner myself, I naturally need feedback in many forms to evaluate my teaching so I can continuously improve.

However, this move to emphasize test results to evaluate and compensate teachers is setting students up to be shortchanged.

Teachers will be forced to teach a narrower set of skills, focusing on test‑measured forms of “success”. Class time for music, arts, social studies, science, research, and physical education will continue to dwindle as long as the focus on testing is largely in reading and math. I have already seen this happen throughout the district at the elementary level, especially in schools with higher poverty rates where students tend to test poorly and the pressure to raise test scores is intense.

Even testing logistics have a negative impact on learning. In buildings throughout the district, the entire school is denied access to precious library resources for 9 weeks out of the 36 weeks of the year to allow for MAP testing three times a year:

that’s 25% of the

year! On top of that, often teachers and principals decide that kids need more practice with standardized test taking on the computers in order to succeed on these high‑stakes tests. Children will see libraries as testing centers rather than as places to expand their learning through research and be inspired by great books.

What about teacher evaluation?

All students deserve talented, effective, inspiring teachers. We need an evaluation system that encourages teachers to engage children in critical thinking and in creative problem solving, as opposed to a system focused on multiple choice test taking. A new evaluation system was developed collaboratively over the last few years by the Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools and piloted in several Seattle schools, and was shown to be a useful and effective evaluation system to judge the effectiveness of teachers. It also gave principals the power to put those teachers who demonstrated ineffective teaching skills on probation. This system is an exciting new development for our teachers and administrators, something that many saw as a very promising step forward to building successful schools.

But then Superintendent Goodloe‑Johnson acted unilaterally in adding the test based evaluation system to this new collaboratively‑developed system

After 15 meetings of the contract negotiation teams, Seattle Public Schools introduced a new addition to the collaboratively developed evaluation system, reducing the new system to 50% of a teacher’s evaluation, and announcing 35‑45% of the teacher’s evaluation would be tied to student performance on standardized tests, most significantly the new MAP test. This 11th hour addition to the contract negotiations is called SERVE. These are just a few of my concerns:

* The MAP test was brought to the district in a no‑bid contract.

Not having an alternate bid for many contracts is an embarrassing critique outlined in the federal audit of SPS, recently published.

* Superintendent Maria Goodloe‑Johnson sits on the board of the company that makes the MAP test, and did not disclose that before the contract was approved.

* Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that makes the MAP test, states the test was never designed as a tool to evaluate teachers.

* $4 million price tag to roll out this system includes money for the test and for more administrators to oversee the program‑‑‑ money that won’t go to our children’s classrooms.

* Honest and thoughtful evaluations can’t be that easy! The SERVE plan hands teacher evaluation over to a computer.

Do we want computerized tests at the core of what our teachers teach and what our children learn?

What Can You Do?

Come to the Board Meeting at John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE) on August 18. Just come to show your concern or sign up to speak. “Members of the public who wish to address the board may do so by e‑mailing (boardagenda@seattleschools.org) the School Board Office or calling (206) 252‑0040, beginning Monday, August 16th, at 8:00am. The public testimony list will be posted Tuesday afternoon, August 17th. For information on how the public testimony list is created, please visit the Board’s website.”

Talk and write to everyone you know about your feelings. Write to The Seattle Times and neighborhood papers. Email or call Superintendent Goodloe‑Johnson at superintendent@seattleschools.org or 206‑252‑0167

Contact the School Board members and tell them your concerns with the SERVE proposal and the direction it would take our schools. Seattle School Board email addresses:

superindendent@seattleschools.org; peter.maier@seattleschools.org, sherry.carr@seattleschools.org; harium.martin‑ morris@seattleschools.org; michael.debell@seattleschools.org;

betty.patu@seattleschools.org; steve.sundquist@seattleschools.org;

kay.smith‑blum@seattleschools.org; pjoakes@seattleschools.org; mcrain@washingtonea.org

Thank you for participating in public education; it is the foundation of our democratic society.