Short Stuff 22.2

Illustrator: Wiley Miller

Non Sequiter © 2007 
Illustration: Wiley Miller. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. 
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved

High-Stakes Protest

A Wisconsin middle school teacher’s protest over high-stakes testing ended when school officials threatened to terminate his job.

David Wasserman, who teaches in grades 6, 7, and 8 at Sennett Middle School in Madison, Wis., agreed to administer the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam after being threatened with possible termination, a consequence he didn’t anticipate.

Wasserman told Madison’s Capital Times that he objected to Wisconsin’s high-stakes test because he believed it to be harmful to his students. “It runs counter to much of what we’re trying to teach our students about exploring ideas rather than guessing an answer,” he said.

Wasserman’s act of resistance made the rounds of national progressive listservs and blogs, and got letters of support in both of Madison’s daily newspapers. Wasserman also won kudos in a column by Capital Times editor Dave Zweifel.

“Just this week, a congressional committee that was working on improving No Child Left Behind signaled that it wouldn’t get to it this year,” Zweifel wrote. “Maybe-just maybe-teachers like David Wasserman can wake them up.”

Sit In, Tune In, Get Suspended

After furious protests from the community, newspapers, and civil rights groups, administrators at Morton (Ill.) West High School backed off from expelling 14 students involved in an in-school antiwar protest.

On Nov. 1, 18 students at the suburban Chicago school were suspended for their part in protesting the Iraq War in the school’s cafeteria. Sixty students were involved in the sit-in; half left after administrators threatened protesters with suspension. The remaining students agreed to relocate in exchange for not being suspended, the Chicago Tribune reported. When they filed out of the cafeteria, “school officials wrapped caution tape around the protesters and barricaded them with tables so that other students couldn’t join them,” the Tribunereported.

As of Nov. 30, four students still face further disciplinary charges because they “bore more culpability for the disruption,” the district said.

“I don’t regret the protest because I brought a lot of people to this question-about Iraq and what it’s doing to our country,” senior Joshua Rodriguez said.

GAO Can’t Vouch for D.C. Program

The District of Columbia’s federally funded voucher program’s shortcomings stem from a lack of internal controls, reports Congress’ chief watchdog.

In its 92-page report on the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office documents several problems with D.C.’s voucher initiative including students taking classes in unsuitable buildings and teachers who lack bachelor’s degrees, as well as failure of officials to check accreditation.

Although the GAO noted the fund has undergone rapid growth in its four years of existence, it did not hold back in outlining the effects of the fund’s deficiencies on parents and students.

“The grantee did not provide parents information about the achievement levels of all students in participating private schools and other indicators of school quality and, for some schools, provided inaccurate information about teacher qualifications and tuition levels,” the GAO reported.

Ruling Curtails In-school Speech

She said her First Amendment protections were impeded. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.

On Oct. 1, the high court turned down Deborah Meyer’s request that the court review an appellate decision involving an Indiana school district and former teacher. In January, the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with a lower district court decision that Meyer, a former 3rd-grade teacher in the Monroe (Ind.) school district, was not entitled to First Amendment protections when in the classroom.

Meyer, then a first-year teacher in the district, believes her contract was not renewed because she held a classroom discussion about the war with Iraq that included a comment on her personal belief against it just a few months before the 2003 invasion.