A boycott against a mandated standardized test at Garfield High School in Seattle, first initiated two weeks ago, has now received support from prominent national educators and—despite threats from school administrators and state officials—has spread to other schools across the city.
“We refuse to give a test that’s bad for students, but this is way bigger than Garfield High School now," said teacher Jesse Hagopian at a press conference on Monday. "This is not just about our school but a city and revolt against a test that is harming our children.”
The teachers at Garfield announced their boycott earlier this month by saying they would refuse to administer a district required standardized test known as the MAP test which they argue is deeply flawed on multiple fronts.
"We, the undersigned, stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex." - from statement of support
After receiving national press coverage and with thousands of people across the country signing an online petition in support of their stance, scores of educators and parents rushed to the side of the teachers as more schools joined in the MAP test boycott.
And on Monday, some of the most respected figures in the field of US education policy issued a public statement in support of the boycott, calling the action a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.”
Among the original signers of the statement were former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, author and social activist Noam Chomsky, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor of education Nancy Carlsson-Paige. As of Tuesday, the number of signatories had grown beyond 160 people.
"In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them," the statement read in part. "As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects."
“We’ve had more than a decade of standardized testing,” said Ravitch explaining her support, “and now we need to admit that it’s not helping.” She added: “By signing this statement, I hope to amplify the voices of teachers who are saying ‘enough is enough’.”
Teachers in Seattle, including Hagopian, welcomed the support. When he looked at the list of those who signed it, he said, he saw "the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today.”
“Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way.”
New York City public school teacher and doctoral student Brian Jones drafted the statement last week and received help with revisions and outreach from University of Washington professor and Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au.
“I’m overwhelmed by the response to this statement,” Jones said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a real movement to challenge high stakes standardized testing.”
“We contacted leading scholars in the field of education,” Au said, “and nearly every single one said ‘Yes, I’ll sign.’ The emerging consensus among researchers is clear: high stakes standardized tests are highly problematic, to say the least.”
According to reporting by the Seattle Times, "Eleven teachers at ORCA K-8, a Seattle alternative school, are boycotting along with the Garfield teachers, and some at Salmon Bay K-8 are considering doing the same. Teachers at other Seattle schools also have sent letters of support for the protesting teachers, as have a number of other groups. They include the Garfield PTSA, the Garfield High student government, the Seattle Student Senate, the Seattle Education Association and Parents Across America’s Seattle chapter."
Whether the stance by these Seattle teachers can inspire teachers in other parts of the country to follow suit remains to be seen, but teachers say that if the focus is on the students, it is inevitable that changes will come.
"This movement is just beginning," said India Carlson, who teaches science at Ballard High School. "We will be in this struggle until we win quality assessment for all of our students."