Be part of the story! Teachers stand up for change.

I’d like to tell you a story.  A story about last year’s legislative session.  It’s the story of how we as teachers, those of us in 24th legislative district and beyond, made a huge difference in Washington state education.

At the beginning of last year’s session, there were two policy challenges that particularly struck me and others: the high stakes linking of deeply flawed math and science assessments to graduation, and the governor’s proposed elimination of National Board stipends.

During the last session, my students, the sophomores I currently had in class, were required to pass the science HSPE to graduate. If my students did not pass this test, they would be required to pass the biology end-of-course exam the following year.  The biology end-of-course exam was a new test, covering different standards.  This meant that students would be responsible for two completely different sets of science standards in their high school career.  This was unjust.  If my students did not pass this test, they would be required to take the biology end-of-course exam not at the end of their biology course, but a full year later.  This defied common sense.  Implementing this new graduation requirement would cost the state millions of dollars at a time of severe cuts to education.

Only the state legislature could delay this requirement.  I wrote letters to legislators, but I quickly realized that one person working alone would not be enough.  I would need allies.  I contacted the WEA.  They put me in touch with a Sequim teacher who was working on similar issues with the high school math assessments. We testified before the house and senate education committees and met personally with legislators, both in Olympia and here at home.

Meanwhile, here in our 24th legislative district, teachers mobilized around full funding for education and the maintenance of the National Board stipends. Teachers travelled to Olympia to meet in legislators’ offices.  Teachers spoke out at legislative town hall meetings in Port Townsend, Sequim, and North Kitsap.  Teachers invited legislators into their classrooms and into their living rooms.

The battle continued throughout the legislative session.  The outcome?  Success on several fronts!  The number of math tests was reduced from two to one.  National Board stipends were maintained almost in full. Finally, late in the evening on the last day of the special session, House Bill 1410 passed and the science graduation requirement was delayed, allowing for a more just assessment for the students.

In the Chimacum Education Association, we are small, but mighty.  But we are not just Chimacum, not just Port Townsend, and not just the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas.  Teachers all across Washington state are standing up.  We have long been the voice of common sense education reform.  My aunts and my parents, retired teachers, recently helped my grandmother, also a teacher, move to an assisted living home.  In one of her jewelry boxes, my dad found this.  My grandma attended the WEA statewide rep assembly in 1943 and kept her ribbon credentials to this day.

Our collective wisdom about what works for kids is great.  I truly believe that education policy improves for students when teachers voice their opinions.  So now, on the first day of the legislative session, I invite all of you to be part of the story of change in our state.

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This is what I had to say at the Statewide Day of Action event hosted by the Chimacum Education Association.  I hope all of you find an issue and make your voice heard this legislative session!

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1 Comment

  1. Todd

     /  December 4, 2011

    Nice job. It is inspiring. Todd

    Reply

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