Teachers boycott high-stakes standardized test

In what National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said is a “defining moment within the education profession,” teachers in Seattle are boycotting a district-mandated standardized test because it would have the ultimate effect of harming student learning.

Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle unanimously decided on Jan. 9 not to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, a move that has garnered national attention and support from educators, parents and students. Other Seattle-area teachers have followed the Garfield teachers’ lead and are refusing to give the test.

The MAP is a computer-administered test that is supposed to measure math and reading skills. It’s intended to be used for high-stakes evaluations of teachers. What it really does, however, is rob students of critical class time and tie up computer labs, all while failing to measure what students are actually learning in the classroom.

Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, said teachers are “frustrated that the test doesn’t line up with the curriculum, doesn’t provide feedback they can use to teach their students, and ties up the computer labs and libraries for students who are not taking the test.”

Van Roekel said: “I, along with 3 million educators across the country, proudly support our members’ efforts in saying ‘no’ to giving their students a flawed test that takes away from learning and is not aligned with the curriculum. Garfield High School educators are receiving support from the parents of Garfield students. They have joined an ever-growing chorus committed to one of our nation’s most critical responsibilities —educating students in a manner that best serves the realization of their fullest potential.”

More than 180 educators and experts, including three education professors at Michigan State University, recently released an open letter in support of the Seattle teachers.

“In the name of ‘raising standards’ the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them,” the letter reads. “As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects.”

“The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested,” the letter continues. “With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform ‘miracles’ in the process. Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.”

Like teachers and support staff in Michigan, Seattle educators do not oppose accountability. In a guest column for the Seattle Times, Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian said educators “insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom.”

Hagopian said “portfolios, which collect student work and demonstrate yearlong student growth, would be a good replacement for the MAP. Such assessments would be directly tied to our curriculum and would demonstrate improvement over time rather than a random snapshot of a student on one particular day.”