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Leading Educators Support Garfield High School Teachers’ Test Boycott

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In a public statement released today, more than sixty educators and researchers, including some of the most well-respected figures in the field of education, pledged support for the boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test initiated by the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, calling the action a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.” Among the signers of the statement are former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige. While the MAP test is used exclusively for rating teachers, “the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations” the educators wrote.

“We’ve had more than a decade of standardized testing,” Ravitch said, “and now we need to admit that it’s not helping.” She added: “By signing this statement, I hope to amplify the voices of teachers who are saying ‘enough is enough’.”

“On Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate people who are willing to take personal risks to act according to their conscience,” Lewis said. “The teachers at Garfield High School are taking a stand for all of us.”

New York City public school teacher and doctoral student Brian Jones drafted the statement last week and received help with revisions and outreach from University of Washington professor Wayne Au. “I’m overwhelmed by the response to this statement,” Jones said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a real movement to challenge high stakes standardized testing.”

“We contacted leading scholars in the field of education,” Au said, “and nearly every single one said ‘Yes, I’ll sign.’ The emerging consensus among researchers is clear: high stakes standardized tests are highly problematic, to say the least.”

“When I look at this list of names, I see the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today,” Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School said. “Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way.”

STATEMENT:

WE SUPPORT THE TEACHERS AT GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL

HIGH STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS ARE OVERUSED AND OVERRATED

THE USE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS IS SPREADING

To fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools in all 50 states administer standardized tests to students, often beginning in third grade, in reading and math. Now, in response to the demands of Race to the Top and the trend toward greater “accountability” in education, states are developing even more tests for more subjects. Standardized tests, once used primarily to assess student learning, have now become the main instrument for the high-stakes evaluation of teachers, administrators, and even entire schools and school systems.

TESTS CONSUME A GREAT DEAL OF TIME AND MONEY

Standardized testing is consuming an ever-growing proportion of education budgets nationwide. The total price tag may be nearly two billion dollars (1). Texas alone spent, last year, $90 million on standardized testing (2). These tests are not a one hour or one day affair, but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time (3). In Chicago, some students must complete 13 standardized tests each year (4).

TESTING HURTS STUDENTS

In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them. As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects. The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested (5). With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform “miracles” in the process (6). Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.

RESEARCH DOES NOT SUPPORT USING TESTS TO EVALUATE TEACHERS 

As a means of assessing student learning, standardized tests are limited. No student’s intellectual process can be reduced to a single number. As a means of assessing teachers, these results are even more problematic. Research suggests that much of the variability in standardized test results is attributable to factors OTHER than the teacher (7). So-called “value-added” models for teacher evaluation have a large margin of error, and are not reliable measures of teacher performance (8).

EDUCATORS ARE TAKING A STAND FOR AUTHENTIC TEACHING AND LEARNING

In a nearly unanimous vote, the staff at Garfield High school in Seattle decided to refuse to administer the district’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. This test, which research has shown to have no significant impact on reading scores (9), has only one purpose within Seattle Public Schools — evaluating the teachers, even though the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations. In taking this action, the educators at Garfield High School have struck a blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and deserve support.

We, the undersigned (10), stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex.

Signed,

Jean Anyon

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Wayne Au

University of Washington, Bothell

Rethinking Schools

Bill Ayers

University of Illinois, Chicago

Jeff Bale

Michigan State University

Kenneth Bernstein

Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School

Bill Bigelow

Rethinking Schools

Steve Brier

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Anthony Brown

University of Texas, Austin

Nancy Carlsson-Paige

Lesley University

Noam Chomsky

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Linda Christensen

Rethinking Schools

Anthony Cody

Education Week Teacher Magazine

Antonia Darder

Loyola Marymount University

Noah DeLissovoy

University of Texas, Austin

Michelle Fine

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Nancy Flanagan

Education Week Teacher Magazine

Ofelia Garcia

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alice Ginsburg

Author

Gene Glass

University of Colorado, Boulder

Paul Gorski

George Mason University

Rico Gutstein

University of Illinois, Chicago

Helen Gym

Asian American United

Rethinking Schools

Leonie Haimson

Class Size Matters

Brian Jones

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Stan Karp

Rethinking Schools

Jonathan Kozol

Author

Kevin Kumashiro

University of Illinois, Chicago

National Association for Multicultural Education

Zeus Leonardo

California State University, Long Beach

Karen Lewis

Chicago Teachers Union

Pauline Lipman

University of Illinois, Chicago

Barbara Madeloni

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Nicholas Michelli

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alex Molnar

University of Colorado, Boulder

National Education Policy Center

National Association for Multicultural Education

Sonia Nieto

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Pedro Noguera

New York University

Edward Olivos

University of Oregon

Celia Oyler

Teachers College, Columbia University

Thomas Pedroni

Wayne State University

Emery Petchauer

Oakland University

Bob Peterson

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association

Rethinking Schools

Anthony Picciano

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Bree Picower

Montclair State University

Thomas S. Poetter

Miami University

Diane Ravitch

New York University

Kristen A. Renn

Michigan State University

Rethinking Schools

John Rogers

University of California, Los Angeles

Kenneth J. Saltman

DePaul University, Chicago

Nancy Schniedewind

State University of New York, New Paltz

Ira Shor

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Timothy D. Slekar

Penn State University, Altoona

Christine Sleeter

California State University, Monterey Bay

Jody Sokolower

Rethinking Schools

Joel Spring

Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York

David Stovall

University of Illinois, Chicago

Katy Swalwell

George Mason University

Melissa Bollow Tempel

Milwaukee Public Schools

Rethinking Schools

Paul Thomas

Furman University

Wayne Urban

University of Alabama

Angela Valenzuela

University of Texas, Austin

Stephanie Walters

Rethinking Schools

Kathleen Weiler

Tufts University

Lois Weiner

New Jersey City University

Kevin Welner

University of Colorado, Boulder

National Education Policy Center

Kathy Xiong

Milwaukee Public Schools

Rethinking Schools

Yong Zhao

Author and Scholar

NOTES

1. Chingos, M. M. (2012). Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems. Brookings Institution.

2. Cargile, E. (May 3, 2012). “Tests’ price tag $90 million this year”. Kxan Investigates, Kxan.com (NBC).

3. Dawer, D. (December 29, 2012) “Standardized Testing is Completely Out of Control”. PolicyMic.com.

4. Vevea, B. (November 26, 2012) “More standardized tests, more Chicago parents looking for ways out”. WBEZ.org.

5. Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.

6. Pell, M.B. (September 30, 2012). “More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can’t ensure test integrity”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

7. Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., … & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. See also: DiCarlo, M. (July 14, 2010). “Teachers Matter, But So Do Words”. Shanker Blog, The Voice of the Albert Shanker Institute.

8. Schafer, W. D., Lissitz, R. W., Zhu, X., Zhang, Y., Hou, X., & Li, Y. Evaluating Teachers and Schools Using Student Growth Models. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 17(17), 2.

9. Cordray, D., Pion, G., Brandt, C., Molefe, A., & Toby, M. (2012). The Impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Program on Student Reading Achievement. Final Report. NCEE 2013-4000. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

10. All signatures represent individual opinions, not institutional endorsements, unless specified. To add your signature to this statement, send an email with your name and affiliation(s) to: GHSstatement@gmail.com.

One comment on “Leading Educators Support Garfield High School Teachers’ Test Boycott

  1. meredythbyrd
    January 21, 2013

    Reblogged this on Engaging Ideas and commented:
    Interesting post from Seattle Education about boycotting the standardized tests at Garfield High School. As someone who has heard all about CBAs (Common-Based Assessments) from fellow teachers but not had to participate in them (joys of teaching 12th grade!) I don’t know what I personally think, but I do know that a lot of emphasis is placed on these tests and a lot of debate should be surrounding them.

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