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Many students face inequities, WEA members tell State Board of Education

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State Board of Education SBE Kink Sheikh Steele
Sobiah Sheikh, Wendy Rader-Konofalski, Jared Kink, Holly Koon, Amy Vasquez and Jenny Steele at the State Board of Education.

Speaking to the State Board of Education, WEA union member and Mukilteo teacher Sobia Sheikh recently gave a stinging rebuke of the state’s testing laws and other fundamental inequities that hurt Washington’s students of color.

“Students in high-poverty, highly diverse neighborhoods face inequities in schools every day, including access to rigorous courses, programs, and extracurricular activities” Sheikh told the Board. “Black and Latino students are underrepresented in gifted programs and advanced placement classes. Our Eurocentric curriculums do not reflect the culture of our students of color, nor their collective histories in the development of our society, yet studies show an increase in credits earned, overall GPA, and attendance rates when students are engaged through content that relates to their lived experiences.”

Sheikh, who teaches math, highlighted a specific example of how the current testing system fails some students.

“Our Muslim students will begin the recognition of Ramadan (soon),” she said. “Ramadan is the most sacred month for the Muslims all around the world. Muslim students in our schools will be fasting before sunrise until sunset, which includes no food or water. Also during this time, students will be required to undergo state standardized testing as well as finals in many of their classes. During a time when our Muslim students require the most support, they will be dealing with the most stressful time of their school year.”

Here is Sheikh’s complete testimony.

Besides Sheikh, Everett Education Association President Jared Kink, Yakima EA member Amy Vasquez  and Everett EA member Jenny Steele also represented WEA before the State Board of Education. Mount Baker EA member Holly Koon serves on the Board, and 2018 National Teacher of the Year and Spokane teacher Mandy Manning also appeared before the Board.

Kink laid out WEA’s main values and goals for the Board, including lower class sizes, equity issues and cultural competency. He also emphasized the urgent need to address social emotional issues and mental health needs as part of a comprehensive school safety system. Each WEA panelist addressed one or more of the issues facing students.

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