Resisters Win Legal Victories

Status: 
Archived
Subject: 
K-12 Testing

The Chicago Board of Education has dropped its case against Substance newspaper and its publisher, George Schmidt, a veteran Chicago public school teacher whom the city sued for $1.3 million for publishing some of the city’s CASE exams after they were administered (see Examiner, Fall 2000). The city agreed to end its litigation for a mere $500, to be paid only if Substance loses all appeals on the constitutional defenses it has raised. Schmidt argues that under the First Amendment, Substance had a right to publish the tests, following precedents such as the Pentagon Papers case. CPS claimed it would cost up to $1.3 million to replace the test items. By settling for so little, CPS tacitly acknowledges that the value of the items was quite small. Following the announcement by teachers at Curie High School that they intended to boycott the CASE, the city simply dropped the exams (see Examiner, Fall 2002).

 

Chicago did fire Schmidt from his teaching position, a decision he is appealing in the courts. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which under its previous leadership failed to defend him, has now hired Schmidt as a consultant. The CTU House of Delegates, in praising CPS’ decision to drop the CASE, voted its approval of Schmidt’s “courageous actions” that, they said, led to the elimination of the CASE. He continues to publish Substance htttp://www.substancenews.com.

 

Gwinnett County, Georgia, 2000-01 Teacher of the Year James Hope has been cleared of wrongdoing by a state Superior Court Judge for his posting of sample standardized test questions to an internet message board (see Examiner, Summer 2002). Hope was facing a six-month suspension of his teaching license after Gwinnett school officials cited him for misconduct. In fact, his wife had posted six outdated questions along with Hope’s observations about students’ struggles with the Gateway test, which is used to determine whether students will be promoted to the next grade. Hope said he felt compelled to criticize the exam because it tested material not covered in class, some questions were poorly worded, and the passing score was manipulated to allow virtually all students to pass.

 

In clearing Hope, Judge Gail Tusan ruled, “Public policy dictates that Hope, an experienced 17-year veteran educator who works directly teaching and evaluating the very students to be tested, be able to actively participate in the public debate regarding the test and share with the concerned parties the benefit of his hands-on experience with the students, the test and its administration.” School officials attempted to appeal the decision, but the appeal was denied, and in February the Professional Standards Commission voted to end its pursuit of the matter.