We all knew that we would get to this point someday, that, somewhere, teachers would decide that their students were not served well by the proliferation of testing, test preparation, and test stress. We knew that someday and somewhere, teachers would declare that their students should come first and that their declaration would be written in civil disobedience. That is the American way, not to mention a teacher's responsibility.
Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, is the somewhere, and the someday is now. The Garfield teachers unanimously decided to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. These teachers believe that this test is not valid at the high-school level. They assert that it hurts English-language learners and special needs students. They know that students do not take it seriously because it has no impact on their grades but that school officials want to use it as a part of teacher evaluation. The Garfield teachers have determined that the time testing takes away from instruction does not meet the educators' test of good practice and ethical behavior for professionals. Every teacher in America can relate to these concerns and knows them to be true.
The Garfield teachers are not taking these actions because they oppose assessments for their students. Quite the opposite! Good assessment and good tests are critical parts of good instruction. As a matter of fact, Garfield students in the ninth and tenth grades take five state-required standardized tests, and students in the eleventh and twelfth grades take three. It is hard to fathom why the superintendent of this school district is falling on his sword for this MAP test. It is even more perplexing when you learn that his predecessor bought this test for $4 million while serving on the board of the test publisher yet made no public disclosure of her conflict of interest. (Remember the teachers' concerns for ethical practice?)
Teachers need to be key decision-makers in selecting assessments that drive instruction, that are aligned to the curriculum, and that are appropriate for their students. High stakes corrupt assessments and policymakers should end their obsession with tests as some cure-all for education ills. Test publishers should build alliances with teachers and their unions to understand and support the proper role of testing in instruction and to create the proper tests.
For now, we can and must rally around Garfield High School and Seattle teachers as they lead the way for all of us. Garfield is ground zero for change that will benefit our students. Sign this petition, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, lobby your legislators to stop high stakes testing, and tell your members of Congress to include in the reauthorization of ESEA policy language that respects and honors the voices of teachers and parents in support of students.
Today is the National Day of Action to support the boycott of the MAP test and the boycotters in Seattle who are facing a ten-day suspension. Stand with these stalwart American teachers who represent the values that make America's public schools great.