Education International
Education International

Seattle teachers reject standardised testing

published 5 February 2013 updated 7 February 2013

The entire faculty of Garfield High School in Seattle, US, has voted not to give students a standardised test used in teacher evaluations, the so-called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).

In a unanimous and unprecedented decision in the US, teachers at Garfield High School concluded in January that the MAP tests are not aligned with the curriculum or goals of the school. Therefore, they argue, the tests are unfairly used to grade teachers’ performance.

Suspensions However, this week, school superintendent Jose Banda has issued a warning to all teachers that failure to carry out ‘district-mandated’ standardised tests will result in a 10-day suspension without pay.

The boycott of the MAP test has generated a huge debate and solidarity from educators, parents and students across the country. Both EI affiliates in the US, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have supported this act of civil disobedience from Seattle educators.

Flawed testing vs. relevant assessment "This isn’t just about testing in general; it’s about a particularly flawed test," said Garfield High School history teacher Jesse Hagopian.

“Garfield has a long tradition of cultivating abstract thinking, lyrical innovation, trenchant debate, civic leadership, moral courage and a myriad other qualities for which our society is desperate, yet which cannot be measured by multiple choice answers' tests,” he added.

Additionally, Hagopian explained that Garfield High School teachers were also refusing to administer tests which had been obtained as a result of an action deemed an ethics violation.

“Former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson brought the MAP to Seattle at a cost of some $4 million while she was serving on the board of the company that sells it. The state auditor called this an ethics violation because she did not disclose it until after the district approved the company’s contract. After Goodloe-Johnson was fired, the MAP somehow survived the housecleaning”, he explained.

NEA: Teachers must have a voice “If we want a system that is designed to help all students, we must allow educators, parents, students and communities to be a part of the process and have a stronger voice in this conversation as they demand high-quality assessments that support student learning,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

AFT: Critical thinking “Learning is more than a test score,” stated AFT President Randy Weingarten. “It’s no longer enough to teach kids to memorise a bunch of numbers and terms; they must think critically and be able to absorb and interpret knowledge.

“At the same time, we must prepare students for civic engagement and to understand that we all have a collective responsibility to one another.”

On her blog, the former US Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, said the Seattle school’s vote could have national ramifications for   teachers. "There is strength in unity and they do not have to endure unethical demands with passivity and resignation," Ravitch wrote.

EI solidarity EI joins its US affiliates, NEA and AFT, in supporting Seattle educators’ courageous act of civil disobedience and agree with them that test-driven education and the misuse of standardised testing to gauge teaching standards is not the answer to provide quality education for all.

EI strongly believes educators should lead the debate about what quality and excellence are when it comes to teaching and learning.

Additional links:

NEA message of support to the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School

AFT message of support to the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School

National Resolution on high-stakes testing

Diane Ravitch’s post on MAP testing

Op-ed from history teacher in Garfield High School, Jesse Hagopian