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Case Study: United States 2012 – 2013

Seattle teachers end standardised testing 

Image

Examination, 1940, Australia via Wikimedia commons

GOALS:
1) To end mandatory administration of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test at Garfield High School.
2) To prevent Seattle public school district administrators from disciplining teachers who refused to administer the MAP test.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC DEMANDS / GOALS: 6 points out of 6
SURVIVAL: 1 point out of 1
GROWTH: 3 points out of 3
TOTAL: 10 / 10

In the 1970s, public (state) school students in the US began taking ‘high stakes’ tests, in which their scores affected school district funding and the students’ ability to move on to the next grade.

The prevalence of high stakes standardised testing increased markedly in 2002, when US president George W Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act. This required administrators at all schools that receive federal funding to issue standardised tests in maths and reading to students every year from grades 3–8 (ages 9–14), and once in high school (grades 9–12, ages 15–18).

A testing agency, the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), created the ‘Measures of Academic Progress’ test to provide a measure of students’ academic growth in maths and English.

MAP-ping Seattle

Students in the Seattle public schools district (SPSD) in Washington state began taking the MAP test in the 2009–2010 school year, and SPSD made it mandatory that teachers administer the test.

On 19 December 2012, the faculty at Garfield High School voted unanimously to no longer administer the MAP test.

The teachers argued that l the MAP tested students’ knowledge of content that teachers were not expected to teach and was therefore a poor measure of student performance l students lost valuable classroom learning time by taking the test l students took the MAP test online in school computer labs, so teachers could not use the labs for other academic purposes and l SPSD administrators evaluated teachers based on their students’ MAP test scores, even though the test’s creators, NWEA, warned that the test should not be used for teacher evaluation.

On 9 January 2013, 19 teachers held a press conference and demanded that SPSD superintendent, José L Banda make test administration optional.

On 23 January, superintendent Banda issued a directive to Seattle principals in which he threatened that any teacher who refused to administer the MAP would be placed on a 10-day suspension without pay.

Scrap the MAP

Teachers and students held a rally at the SPSD headquarters on 23 January. They sang and held signs expressing their support of the decision to opt-out of the MAP test, popularising the slogan ‘Scrap the MAP’.

Soon, six other Seattle schools joined the boycott.

The teachers at Garfield encouraged supporters to call superintendent Banda on 30 January 2013 and designated
6 February as a national day of action.

Allies from across the country sent thousands of letters, videos, phone calls, and pictures to superintendent Banda.

On 3 March 2013, parents, teachers, and scholars gathered at the University of Washington for a teach-in about Washington state’s standardised testing.

A staged retreat

On 22 March, SPSD announced that they would reduce MAP testing requirements. Only ninth-grade students who did not take the state reading test would be required to take the MAP, and only students taking an algebra class would have to take the MAP algebra test.

Superintendent Banda sent an email on 29 March to the SPSD community promising that no teacher who boycotted the test would be disciplined.

The end of March marked the end of the winter MAP testing season, with 273 students opted out of the tests. There were 170 incidences of test refusal – ‘170 is the number of tests, not students’.

When the spring testing season began toward late April, Garfield teachers still boycotted the tests.

The teachers added a demand that SPSD not renew the contract with NWEA to purchase the MAP test for the following academic year.

Garfield teachers called upon their supporters to send more letters and to hold rallies on
1 May in an International Day
of Solidarity.

On 13 May 2013, superintendent Banda sent a letter to SPSD administrators in which he officially declared that SPSD high schools could decide to not administer the MAP test in the 2013–2014 school year.

Garfield teachers and students celebrated. The superintendent still required that the test be administered at the elementary and middle school levels, thus dampening the victory for the SPSD elementary and middle school allies of Garfield High School.

As of 25 September 2015, SPSD completely eliminated the MAP test at the high school level and was phasing out the MAP test for students in grades 3–8. SPSD continued to require the test for students in kindergarten, first, and second grade.

Since the goal of the campaign was to end the test in the high school level, the campaign was successful.

Researcher: Meghan Kelly, November 2015. Editing by PN.
This case is drawn from the Global Nonviolent Action Database hosted by Swarthmore College. More info:
www.nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu