Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Victory for the Garfield High Seattle MAP Protest!

March 13th marked an important victory for educators that disagree with the nation's standardized testing obsession. Earlier this year, the teachers at Garfield High in Seattle protested the exorbitant number of exams their students are required to take by refusing the administer the MAP test. The teachers were not protesting all standardized tests. Rather, they argued the MAP test was flawed, wasted valuable instructional time, and did not provide meaningful feedback to teachers. As a result of the protest, the teachers faced suspension or other disciplinary actions. Eventually, the school district decided to use administrators and substitute teachers to administer the test. The New Yorker included an insightful piece on the protest and Dan Rather examined Garfield High through a television report back in February. Many schools and teachers unions sent letters of solidarity with the MAP Protest teachers. As a member of the Framingham Teachers Association Executive Board, we sent a letter of support. Meanwhile, many education professors, including myself, signed FairTest's Statement Against High States Testing. Inspired by the MAP Test Protest, students in Providence, Rhode Island, led a major protest of their state standardized test. Some parents across the country have decided to keep their children home on standardized test days in protest.

As more students, parents, and teachers across the country have joined in the protest against standardized testing, the national discourse has begun to shift slightly. Even Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a strong supporter of "data-driven" education, has softened his rhetoric on standardized testing, as was evident from his speech last month at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting.

Then yesterday, Seattle Superintendent José Banda announced that, starting next fall, Seattle high schools will not have to give the MAP test, while elementary and middle school teachers will receive more support on how to use MAP exam results to help better inform their instruction. Although this may not reverse the nation's troubling over-reliance on standardized testing, it is an important victory nonetheless. This will hopefully begin a shift in our national conversation on education from test data-obsession to improving instruction and poverty reduction.

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