Thursday, February 07, 2013

Students Refuse

A little over a month ago I posted about Seattle's Garfield High School teachers refusing to administer the standardized MAP test to their students, saying it wastes time, money, and precious school resources. Teachers at 3 other Seattle schools have joined the boycott and have received letters of support from hundreds of other teachers across the district. As I wrote in an update, parents and students have also thrown their support behind the teachers.

Things are now coming to a head as Seattle School Superintendent Jose Banda has threatened to discipline the teachers if the tests are not completed by the end of this month, and has taken further steps, ordering Garfield's principal and vice principals to start administering the test. The good news is that not only are the teachers not budging, but reports from the campus yesterday indicate that a full 3/4 of the 9th graders expected to take the test have refused, and among those that did sit down in front of the computers, many have protested by simply pushing the Enter key repeatedly.

Garfield history teacher and boycott leader Jesse Hagopian called Banda's decision "a callous disregard for the will of the educational community that makes up Garfield."

My long-time friend and president of the PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association), instigators of a campaign to inform families of their right to refuse to allow their children to take the MAP test, Phil Sherburn said that Banda's decision has turned this into a power struggle and has "just escalated the conflict."

The good news is that despite all this, the message does seem to be getting through. While Banda still insists the teachers will be punished, he has taken his threat to suspend them for two weeks without pay off the table. He has also formed a task force to review the districts entire testing program, a process that he promises will include teachers and parents.

The MAP test is one that is used nationwide, being taken by millions of students a year. It does not test material being taught in the classroom, has a margin of error greater than the average number of points an typical 9th grader is expected to gain, and closes the library for an entire month. The test is also being mis-used to evaluate teachers, and to determine promotions and pay, something even the test-makers say should not happen, a point the teachers themselves are not making, but I will.

If you want to express your support for the Garfield educational community, you will find a number of steps you can take and more information at the Scrap The MAP site.

Let's hope the fight for real education reform starts here. I'm proud of us.

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Anonymous said...

This is thrilling! Thanks for writing about this. I wouldn't have been aware otherwise. I'm proud of these people and I hope others will follow suit. Just amazing!

Roanna Council said...

Teacher Tom, my name is Roanna Council. I am in EDM310 at The University of South Alabama to become a Secondary Math Education major. This class requires me to find blogs by teachers throughout the world and comment on them.

I understand your frustration with this issue in the school in Seattle. Sadly, the idea of standardized testing is becoming impossible to escape. The new "thing" is high schools these days are EQTs. "End of the Quarter Tests" These tests are the same for every school in the county and force all students and teachers to be at a specific point in the textbook before they can succeed on the test. Basically, this means if a student falls behind, you just have to leave them so that the rest of the class might do well. And if all the students fail the first quarter's EQT, you don't get to go back and reteach it. You must just keep driving info that they don't understand down their throats so that maybe they will do better on the next quarter's EQT. Absolutely ridiculous!

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