A Seattle teacher revolt is stoking a growing protest against what education reform activists see as the overuse of standardized testing in public schools.
The revolt is taking place among Seattle public school teachers who have decided to boycott the use of standardized tests. They are taking particular aim at the the multiple-choice Measures of Academic Progress test, which is given multiple times each year.
Annual standardized tests for reading and math are required under the landmark 2002 “No Child Left Behind” law. These tests helped to expose the achievement gap between affluent and poorer, largely urban school districts. But opponents say putting too much focus on these standardized tests end up detracting from the educational experience of students.
The Seattle teacher revolt could be coming at the right time. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has signaled some willingness to ease back on standardized tests, though he did say it is necessary to test every student annually.
“There’s a common-sense middle ground,” Duncan said.
The Seattle teacher revolt is being led by Garfield High School, where teachers decided in December to boycott the MAP test, Reuters reported. The teachers have said the computerized tests don’t match up with the state’s curriculum and produce “meaningless results.”
“This MAP test is leading (us) on a journey toward failure. It’s leading us on a journey of conflict of interest and ethics violations,” said Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopain.
Three other schools have joined Garfield High School in the Seattle teacher revolt, KIRO-TV reported, and there are six schools that publicly support the boycott but still administer the MAP test.
The MAP test is given three times a year, along with two other state-mandated exams, but teachers and students alike have started to abandon it. They have joined rallies against the test and hundreds of students protested by either skipping the test or filling it in quickly so their results could not be used.
Those participating in the Seattle teacher revolt cold face disciplinary action, said Clover Codd, a top official with the Seattle School District.
“We hear their concerns, we want to work with them, but we need to do what’s right for our children,” Codd said. “There may be two rights here.”
The Seattle teachers are not the only ones speaking out against standardized testing. Dozens of high schools in Portland, Oregon, boycotted mandatory state tests. Some states have also passed resolutions demanding that the number of standardized tests be reduced.
The Seattle teacher boycott also has the support of some high-profile education groups. New York University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Texas at Austin, and Chicago Public Schools have all expressed concerns about standardized testing. Seattle librarians have also expressed support for reducing standardized tests.
But support for the Seattle teacher boycott is not universal. Michelle Rhee, the former head of public schools in Washington, D.C., came to the city to speak last month in an appearance the drew demonstrators at Seattle Town Hall. Decrying the lack of accountability in American public schools, Rhee said that regular testing was critical to measure student progress. Rhee is part of an education reform movement that wants to tie the result of these standardized tests more heavily into teacher evaluations.