On Monday, May 13, Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda announced that “High schools may opt out of MAP [Measures of Academic Progress Test] in 2013-14.”
This announcement was greeted with spontaneous celebrations by teachers and students at Garfield High School where the boycott of MAP tests began in January.
Garfield High School’s librarian, Janet Woodward summed up the meaning of the MAP test boycott for Garfield saying, “I feel vindicated by the decision to remove MAP testing from the high schools. Our movement has succeeded in exposing all of the fallacies of using this canned assessment. It is a waste of money and time, turns professionals into proctor clerks and produces results which are not statistically relevant.”
It was the first time a group of teachers have boycotted a standardized test in America. The boycott began on January 9, 2013 when the 19 strong group of teachers at Garfield High voted unanimously to refuse to administer the MAP test. The MAP test purports to evaluates student progress in reading and math in all grades (K-12). This is part of the growing national fight back against the high stakes testing regime that has swept through the US education system.
The teachers’ successful boycott of the MAP tests was down to a variety of factors. The unswerving determination of teachers at Garfield and other Seattle schools to continue the test boycott in the face of threats of suspension from Superintendent Banda. The victory over the MAP test would not have been possible without the massive support from local parents, many of whom refused to enter their kids for the MAP tests.
Another hugely important factor in this defeat of standardized testing was the solidarity action of hundreds of Seattle high schools students who held meetings and gave out flyers supporting the teacher test boycott. The independent decision of hundreds of students to refuse to sit the tests was critical to this victory over the MAP test. A break down of the winter MAP testing numbers at Garfield High revealed that only 180 valid tests were delivered out of a planned 810. Hundreds of students had taken solidarity action in support of their teachers by refusing to take the tests.
Besides this, the campaign has won huge support from teachers and trade unions across America. 60 leading academics, researchers, and trade unionists signed a statement of support for the MAP test boycott.
Alongside this, is the growing movement against massive cuts to education funding. On 17 May thousands of students in Philadelphia walked out in protest at the planned cuts to education spending. Meanwhile, in Chicago on 22 May there was three days of protests against the mayor’s plan to close 54 local schools.
Garfield history teacher and union rep Jesse Hagopian has commented upon the significance of their victory in an interview with Democracy Now on 20 May:
It’s a real crisis for for these corporate education reformers …because their whole system of education reform rests on these data points, on reducing teaching and learning to a single score that they can use to close schools like your seeing proposed in Chicago and Philadelphia. That they can use these data points to degrade education and profit from it turning them into charter [schools].
Jesse Hagopian went on to note the importance of the Seattle teacher’s victory against inappropriate forms of school testing:
This boycott represented a threat to their ability to reduce teaching and learning to a single score. I think that’s why Michelle Ree and these corporate reformers are so upset we stood up to their tests and refused to give them. I think that’s why so many teachers, parents and students across the nation are celebrating this victory.
During the test boycott over 20 teachers from around Seattle met to develop an alternative to the MAP test called Teacher Work Group on Assessment Recommendations, Spring 2013 Superintendent Banda’s decision to allow schools to opt out of the MAP test was made on the provision that schools will need to develop their own assessments in 2014 to replace the MAP test. The teacher working group recommendations should provide the guidelines to do that.
The victory of teachers in Seattle against high stakes testing should inspire teachers, parents, and students that a fight back against the big business agenda in education is possible. As Garfield Special Education teacher Serena Samar said, “Our actions as a staff have reignited the belief that a group of people can make a difference.”