Courageous in Seattle

There is a bit of a standardized testing revolt brewing in Seattle! About a week ago, the teachers at Garfield High School voted unanimously to boycott the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test. Soon after, the teachers at Ballard High School joined them. Will more follow? DEY shares this story in an effort to inspire other educators to stand up against policies that are harmful to children.

You can read about the MAP boycott in the words of teacher Jessie Hagopian, who writes,

WALKING the same halls once trod by Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Bruce Lee, Brandon Roy and Macklemore makes teaching at Garfield High School exhilarating.

When I look at the students in my history classes, I see young people who may be the next to turn the world inside out. Garfield has a long tradition of cultivating abstract thinking, lyrical innovation, trenchant debate, civic leadership, moral courage and myriad other qualities for which our society is desperate, yet which cannot be measured, or inspired, by bubbling answer choice “E.”

Garfield teachers voted last week, without a single “no” vote, to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test on ethical and professional grounds. Our student government and PTSA both voted to support us.

Why did we take this stand, now, against this test?

I graduated from Garfield in 1997, went to college, did Teach for America in Washington, D.C., came home, got my masters in teaching at the University of Washington and returned to teach in the “Dog House.”

The standardized tests I took as a student at Garfield were moments of great misery, because they made me feel unintelligent. I had talents, but there were no test questions on whether I could play piano, coach my little sister in pitching, or identify a problem in my community that needed action and write a letter to the editor about it.

Read the entire piece here, in The Seattle Times.

Take a few moments to the comments posted after Hagopian’s piece.  A number of them are from elementary teachers who are also unimpressed with the MAP test for their grade level.

For example:

As an elementary school teacher in SPS, I applaud the staff at Garfield for doing what most of us would have loved to do several years ago. There are other flaws that impact students at the elementary level and I haven’t read them much in comments on the blogs and sites that offer stories this week and last to this boycott. I would love to share.
The test is stressful to little children. High readers in intermediate grades (3-5) will be asked questions that really throw them for a loop. Once a student of mine got irritated with the test and started writing everything down that the test was asking her that she didn’t know. There were 11 items. They included alliteration, iambic pentameter, and personification. These are not things that enrich the life of a 9 year old.

and

Elementary aged children have their reading assessed via the DRA. This assessment is done one to one between student and teacher. I’ve found the results to be more reliable than placing a 5 or 6 year old child in front of a self administered computer exam (MAP). Elementary aged children are also given MAP three times a year to assess math and reading. At the end of the year, one week after MAP testing, students in grades 3-5 take the MSP for reading and math.

As Hagopian sums up:

Garfield’s teachers are preparing students for the real-life tests they will face, and reject the computer multiple-choice rituals that fail to measure grade-level content — not to mention character, commitment, courage or talent.

The boycotts in Seattle are important, as Race to TheTop and the Common Core State Standards are bringing even more computer-administered standardized tests to our classrooms. DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige has published a personal message of support (along with her son, Matt Damon) to the teachers of Garfield High. To show support to the Garfield teachers, DEY encourages you to write to their school board and the superintendent. (Thanks to Susan Ohanian for the contact information listed below.)

superintendent@seattleschools.org

schoolboard@seattleschools.org

You can also write to the teachers whose names have appeared in the news.

Kit McCormick (English teacher)
Jesse Hagopian (History teacher)
Mario Shaunette (Math teacher)

Garfield High School
400 23rd Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122

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