Seattle Teacher Revolt: Standardized Tests Boycotted

Monday, 04 Mar 2013 09:22 AM

By Megan Anderle

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Seeking to limit standardized testing, Seattle public school teachers are boycotting a widely used test, sparking protests across the nation, MSN News reported.

Standardized tests rose to prominence over the past decade, beginning in 2002 with former President George W. Bush, who required annual reading and math tests for elementary school students, called "No Child Left Behind." The tests exposed achievement gaps in many schools, mainly along racial and economic lines, and spurred interventions to help struggling kids.

Over the years, the stakes have grown increasingly higher. Teachers are evaluated by their students' scores. Students, on the other hand, must pass the tests to advance to the next grade in elementary school or earn a high-school diploma. As a result, many school districts, like Seattle, give additional standardized tests throughout the year to prepare them.

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The additional tests are what Seattle teachers are taking issue with.

In January, teachers and students at Seattle's Garfield High School boycotted the multiple-choice Measures of Academic Progress test, saying the computerized exam is not aligned with the state's curriculum and produces "meaningless results" upon which they are indirectly evaluated, MSN reported.

MAP has been used three times a year since 2009, on top of two other state-mandated exams. It is used in hundreds of school systems throughout Washington state and elsewhere. It costs the district $436,114.

Teachers and students staged rallies. About 270 parents opted out for their children, some noting that the test was not required for graduation. Hundreds of students protested, either by not taking the test or completing it so quickly or randomly that the results were invalid, Garfield High School testing coordinator Kris McBride told MSN.

Educators who did not give the test by Feb. 28, the last day winter MAP test scores are valid, could face disciplinary action, said Clover Codd, an 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 told MSN. "There may be two rights here."

The Northwest Evaluation Association, maker of the MAP, told MSN its test adapts to students' individual aptitudes and quickly provides educators with a reliable, fair progress report, though the test version used may not adhere to a specific teacher's syllabus.

Officials will determine whether to renew the test this spring.

Students at dozens of high schools across the country have followed Seattle's lead.

Students in Portland, Ore., launched a boycott in February. In Providence, R.I., students splattered themselves with fake blood and pretended to be zombies to protest state education officials' mandates.

More than 500 school boards in Texas, and several large school districts in Florida, have passed resolutions demanding a reduced focus on standardized tests, MSN reported.

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"We are just seeing the very beginning of this testing revolt," Jesse Hagopian, one of the dissenting teachers in Seattle, told Reuters. "Maybe you can call it the 'Teachers' Spring,'" he added.

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