Meet Higher Standards? Seattle Teachers Say Funding Is Also Key | KUOW News and Information

Meet Higher Standards? Seattle Teachers Say Funding Is Also Key

Apr 7, 2015

For the 11th-grade math test in Washington state, there's a version in Spanish. There's also a glossary to translate words into Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, Punjabi.

Notice anything missing? 

"They forgot the whole continent of Africa,” said Franklin High School teacher Meg Richman. “Many of our students are from Somalia and Ethiopia. And those languages are not represented in the glossary."  

That’s part of the frustration with the “smarter balanced test.” A move to boycott the test appears to be gaining steam. Now, the local NAACP has joined the fight.

Teachers and community leaders recently gathered in Seattle’s tiny NAACP headquarters to discuss the test – and what they perceive as too much testing and underfunded schools.

They said the missing glossaries fit in with a historic pattern: Black kids fail in larger numbers, in part because the tests are stacked against them.

Gerald Hankerson of the NAACP weighed in.

"The question is if you spend $200 million to administer a test, but you’re not going to be equipped to address the diverse pool of all the African kids and Somali kids here, then that in itself is a civil rights violation,” he said.

But Randy Dorn, the state schools superintendent, said transition and change are always tough. He said the test will improve in time.

Franklin High School Language Arts Teacher Meg Richman was one of many who described the test's adverse impact on English language learners Tuesday night.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

In the meantime, he said expectations must be raised for all students. He said support for that approach goes all the way to the top.

"I had a meeting with the president of the United States a couple weeks ago,” he said. “And if we want to continue to be the leaders of the free world, we need to have the most highly educated students. And we need to have high standards for them to meet."

The teachers gathered at the NAACP say they aren’t bothered by higher standards, though. They’re bothered that students are being held to higher standards, but schools aren’t given the money to help those kids meet those standards. 

The state, they say, must step forward with more money.

On that point, the superintendent agrees.