Seattle teachers face sanctions for refusing to give standardized test

Seattle high school teachers who are refusing to give students a state standardized test that they say is fatally flawed now face sanctions, and students are taking the test this week by order of state officials who demanded that administrators administer it.

The boycott of the Measures of Academy Progress that started at Garfield High School and spread to a few other schools in Seattle, picked up national support from educators, students, researchers and advocates. Wednesday is National Action Day for Seattle MAP Boycott; supporters around the country are passing out petitions urging an end to high-stakes standardized testing in their own areas and expressing support for the Garfield educators at the center of the Seattle boycott. In Chicago, for example, parents and teachers were circulating petitions at several public elementary schools, where some kindergarteners are taking 14 tests a year. Supporters were asked to wear red.

Seattle teachers say they were told by school district officials that they face sanctions for refusing to give the MAP, which educators say don’t really evaluate student learning. The superintendent of schools, Jose Banda, ordered administrators to  pull students out of classrooms to take the test in the library, but many students refused to take it and turned in letters signed by their parents giving them permission to opt out of the test, teachers reported.

Here’s an open letter written by Garfield High Schools PTSA president, Phil Sherburne

Garfield HS PTSA
February 4, 2013

An Important Message from our PTSA President….

 

The Board of the PTSA was surprised and chagrined to learn that the School District Superintendent has ordered the administrative staff of Garfield to administer the MAP tests Tuesday, February 5. Students will be pulled out of classes and sent to the computer lab and library to take the test. We are very disappointed that the Superintendent has decided to escalate the conflict over the MAP tests in this manner.

We were heartened by the Superintendent’s announcement last week that a broadly representative task force was being immediately convened to review the standardized testing issues and options and to come up with recommendations. The Superintendent had also started discussions with the teachers at Garfield which was another positive step. We do not understand why the Superintendent would compromise those encouraging steps by the peremptory order for the school principal and his staff to administer the tests.

The Superintendent has yet to respond to the questions the teachers and parents have raised about the tests. But yet the tests are going forward on an emergency basis.

This conflict over the tests does not need to be further inflamed. As parents, we want an air of normality at the school with the adults modeling to the students a rational deliberative process for resolving an important issue. We think the task force being planned is a good step in that direction. Let’s all put our attention there.

Phil Sherburne
PTSA President
phil-sherburne@msn.com

Garfield teacher Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser wrote in an e-mail:

And now we worry about what happens next.  The superintendent has shown he values crushing dissent, at the expense of student learning or taking his teachers seriously.  He may be winning this round but I suspect his might be a pyrrhic victory.  He’s certainly burning up capital rapidly while attacking us.  In a meeting yesterday with our ringleaders, he had no response to the problems we see with the MAP test.  He sat unresponding to question after question –  “how do you respond to the problem that the margin of error exceeds expected annual improvement?”  and so on.  This while he threatens our jobs and our administrators’ jobs?  I worry that the district leadership is losing its legitimacy in public view.”

The superintendent’s office did not return e-mails or calls.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | February 6, 2013