The standardized-testing boycott that began with teachers in Chicago last year and reached new heights recently in Seattle may be exploding into a full-blown national movement.
Seattle teachers, who have for the past month refused district orders to administer an exam to their students, have called on their colleagues nationwide to participate in a “national day of action” Wednesday. The Seattle Education Association is pushing for fellow instructors and other sympathizers to “hold meetings, rallies, take photos and wear red to show support.”
The burgeoning protest began at Seattle's Garfield High School in early January, when teachers there refused to give students the “measures of academic progress” assessment, more commonly known as the MAP test.
The exam, given to students nationwide and designed to measure reading, math and other skills, is being derided by teachers and their unions as a waste of time and a poor measure of student knowledge.
Critics of the protest point out that it also plays a role in Seattle teacher evaluations and claim that’s the real motive behind the boycott.
Whatever the true reason, Garfield instructors quickly found support in other Seattle schools and many across the nation. Over the weekend, 18 teachers and instructional assistants at Seattle's Ballard High School joined the protest and refused to give the MAP test, The Seattle Times reported.
“At this time, we believe the test should end. We will no longer agree to support the test, and we will no longer send our students to be tested,” the Ballard faculty wrote. “We join with our colleagues at numerous other Seattle schools who refuse to give the test.”
In a petition filed at change.org, the teachers cite among their many complaints that the MAP is not aligned with state standards; that administering it takes time away from instruction; that it negatively affects students with special needs; and that it monopolizes computer labs.
While the anti-testing crusade has reached new heights in Seattle, it had its beginnings last year in Chicago. Teachers in the Windy City also boycotted a district-mandated test and eventually had it eliminated.
The Chicago and Seattle protests are indicative of a larger movement that’s been bubbling beneath the surface for years. Since the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law went into full effect a decade ago, standardized testing has become more frequent and has carried more weight.
Reducing the time teachers must spend preparing students for standardized tests is a widely accepted goal, but opinions are mixed on whether it’s right for the Seattle instructors to ignore district policy and direct orders from their superintendent, Jose Banda.
Mr. Banda has threatened the boycotting teachers with 10-day unpaid suspensions, but so far the threat has had no obvious effect. The Seattle schools leader also has commissioned a task force to study the MAP and other standardized tests.
Meanwhile, the teachers have found strong support from their colleagues and from the nation’s leading teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. The Seattle Education Association, the local chapter of the NEA, now says supporters of the boycott are calling to donate money to the teachers.
“We are currently speaking with legal staff as to whether or not we can accept those donations,” the local union wrote on its website.
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Ben Wolfgang is a national reporter for The Washington Times. Before coming to the Times, he spent four years as a political reporter in Pennsylvania. His focus is on education and science policy. Ben lives in southeast D.C. and has played guitar in several bands while still in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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