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Archive for January, 2013

In a public statement released today, more than sixty educators and researchers [UPDATE: now 130+], 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.”

The Statement: 

We Support the Teachers of 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 (2) on standardized testing. 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 are 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. Research has shown that this test has no significant impact on reading scores (9). While serving other low-stakes district purposes in the Seattle Public Schools, it is only used as a high-stakes measure for 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*,

Curtis Acosta
Chican@/Latin@ Literature Teacher, Tucson

Lauren Anderson
University of Southern California

Sam Anderson
National Black Education Agenda

Taiwanna Anthony
Prairie View A&M University

Jean Anyon
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Michael W. Apple
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Fadhilika Atiba-Weza
Retired Superintendent

Wayne Au, University of Washington, Bothell
Rethinking Schools

Ann Aviles de Bradley
Northeastern Illinois University

Bill Ayers
University of Illinois, Chicago

Rick Ayers
University of San Francisco

Jeff Bale
Michigan State University

Johanna Barnhart
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Ann Berlak
San Francisco State University

Kenneth Bernstein
Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School

Bill Bigelow
Rethinking Schools

Elizabeth Bissell
Putney Central School

Steve Brier
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Maureen T. Boler
PS17K, New York

Steve Brier
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Jacqueline Grennon Brooks
Hofstra University

Anthony Brown
University of Texas, Austin

Jim Burns
South Dakota State University

Kristen Lynn Buras
Urban South Grassroots Research Collective

Carol Burris
Keith Middle School, New Bedford

Keith Campbell
Saint Mary’s College of California

Kenneth Carano
Western Oregon University

Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Lesley University

Elizabeth Carroll
Appalachian State University

Cynthia Carvalho
Keith Middle School, New Bedford

Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Linda Christensen
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Cody
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Ross Collin
Manhattanville College

Kevin Cordeiro
Social Studies educator

Kim Cosier
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Keith Danner
University of California, Irvine

Antonia Darder
Loyola Marymount University

Noah DeLissovoy
University of Texas, Austin

Susan DuFresne
Teacher, Washington State

Susan Huddleston Edgerton
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Jeff Edmundson
University of Oregon

Shanti Elliott
Francis Parker School, Chicago

Christopher Erickson
Great Neck South High School

Pete Farruggio
University of Texas Pan American

Joseph Featherstone
Michigan State University

Anita Fernandez
Prescott College

Donna Fielding
Plainview–Old Bethpage  John F. Kennedy High School

Michelle Fine
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

B L Buddy Fish
Jackson State University

Nancy Flanagan
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Esther Fusco
Hoftstra University

Ofelia Garcia
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Ruth Wilson Gilmore
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alice Ginsburg
Author

Gene Glass
University of Colorado, Boulder

Noah Asher Golden
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Joanna Goode
University of Oregon

Avery F. Gordon
University of California, Santa Barbara

Julie Gorlewski
State University of New York, New Paltz

Paul Gorski
George Mason University

Tim Goulet
Pipefitters Local Union 274

Karen Gourd
University of Washington, Bothell

Judith Gouwens
Roosevelt University

Sandy Grande
Connecticut College

Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs
Seattle University

Rico Gutstein
University of Illinois, Chicago

Helen Gym
Asian American United
Rethinking Schools

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

Zoe Hammer
Prescott College

Nicholas D. Hartlep
Illinois State University

Barbara Hawkins
Teachers College,  Columbia University

Nick Henning
California State University, Fullerton

Jane Hirschmann
Time Out From Testing

Brian R. Horn
Illinois State University

James Horn
Cambridge College

Diane Horwitz
DePaul University

Nora Hyland
Rutgers

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality Public Education, Atlanta

Shaun Johnson
At the Chalk Face

Brian Jones
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Denisha Jones
Howard University

Marc Kagan
New York City School

Richard Kahn
Antioch University Los Angeles

Stan Karp
Rethinking Schools

Judith S. Kaufman
Hofstra University

Kenneth Kaufman
NYC High School Teacher

Bill Kennedy
University of Chicago

Joyce E. King
Georgia State University

Jonie Kipling
Hofstra University

Sid Kivanoski
Brooklyn Technical High School

Rachel Knoll
Mother, Educator
Madison, WI

Pamela J. Konkol
Concordia University Chicago

Jodi (Sacks) Kostbar
Professional Performing Arts School

Jonathan Kozol
Author

Steven Krashen
University of Southern California

Kevin Kumashiro
University of Illinois, Chicago
National Association for Multicultural Education

Raina J. Leon
St Mary’s College of California

Zeus Leonardo
California State University, Long Beach

Karen Lewis
Chicago Teachers Union

Pauline Lipman
University of Illinois, Chicago

Barbara Madeloni
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Tim Mahoney
Millersville University

Sallie A. Marston
University of Arizona

Victoria J. Maslow
New  York City Department of Education

Kavita Kapadia Matsko
University of Chicago

Morna McDermott
United Opt Out National

Kathleen McInerney
Saint Xavier University

Elizabeth Meadows
Roosevelt University

Erica R. Meiners
Northeastern Illinois University

Deborah  Meier
Coalition of Essential Schools

Nicholas Michelli
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Gregory Michie
Chicago Public School teacher
Concordia University Chicago

Alexandra Miletta
Mercy College

Alex Molnar
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

Steevenson Mondelus
HOFSTRA graduate, Social Studies

Terry Moore
Save Our Schools

Mark Naison
Fordham University

National Association for Multicultural Education

Monty Neill
FairTest

Donna Nevel
New York University

Sonia Nieto
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Pedro Noguera
New York University

Isabel Nuñez
Concordia University Chicago

Dr. Tema Okun
National L0uis University

Edward Olivos
University of Oregon

Celia Oyler
Teachers College, Columbia University

Lisa (Leigh) Patel
Boston College

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

Irene Plonczak
Hofstra University

Theresa Plue
Easton Secondary School

Thomas S. Poetter
Miami University

Anthony Pravin

Courtney Prusmack
Adams 14 Schools, Denver

Therese Quinn
Teacher

Annette Quintero
United Teachers of Dade

Rachel Radina
Miami University

Jessie Ramey
University of Pittsburgh

Diane Ravitch
New York University

Kristen A. Renn
Michigan State University

Rethinking Schools

Yolette Rios
Hesperia Teachers Association
California Association of Bilingual Educators

Peggy Roberston
United Opt Out National

Georgiena C. Robinson
John F. Kennedy High School
Plainview, NY

John Rogers
University of California, Los Angeles

Jerry Rosiek
University of Oregon

Leilani Sabzalian
University of Oregon

Kenneth J. Saltman
DePaul University, Chicago

Lily Sanabria-Hernandez
Hofstra University

Karyn Sandlos
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Mara Sapon-Shevin
Syracuse University

Karen Saunders
Spark Teacher Education Institute
Brattleboro, Vermont

Al Schademan
California State University, Chico

Eric Schmitt
Teacher, New York

Nancy Schniedewind
State University of New York, New Paltz

William Schubert
University of Illinois, Chicago

Ann Schulte
California State University, Chico

Tim Scott
Education Radio

Brad Seidman
John F. Kennedy High School
Bellmore, NY

Doug Selwyn
Plattsburgh State University

Susan Semel
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Carla Shalaby
Wellesley College

Jessica T. Shiller
Towson University

Ira Shor
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alan Singer
Hofstra University

Elizabeth A. Skinner
Illinois State University

Timothy D. Slekar
Penn State University, Altoona

Christine Sleeter
California State University, Monterey Bay

Ceresta Smith
United Teachers of Dade Phoenix Rising MORE Caucus

Jody Sokolower
Rethinking Schools

Jim Sommerville
Cudahy Middle School

The Southeast Massachusetts & Rhode Island Coalition to Save Our Schools

Mariana Souto-Manning
Teachers College, Columbia University

Joi Spencer
University of San Diego

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

Sandra L. Stacki
Hofstra University

Lester Stasey
Alvarez High School, Providence

David W. Stinson
Georgia State University

David Stovall
University of Illinois, Chicago

Simeon Stumme
Concordia University Chicago

Katy Swalwell
George Mason University

Cathryn Teasley
Universidade da Coruña

Melissa Bollow Tempel
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Chris Thinnes
Curtis School, Los Angeles

Paul Thomas
Furman University

Maris Thompson
California State University, Chico

Carol L. Tieso
College of William and Mary

Joe Tonan
Claremont Faculty Association

Victoria F. Trinder
University of Illinois, Chicago

Eve Tuck
State University of New York, New Paltz

Jesse Turner
Children Are More Than Test Scores

Wayne Urban
University of Alabama

Angela Valenzuela
University of Texas, Austin

Bob Valiant
Dump Duncan

Jane Van Galen
University of Washington, Bothell

Manka Varghese
University of Washington

Michael Vavrus
The Evergreen State College

Sofia Villenas
Cornell University

Shirin Vossoughi
Stanford University School of Education

Federico R. Waitoller
University of Illinois at Chicago

John Walcott
Calvin College

Stephanie Walters
Rethinking Schools

William Watkins
University of Illinois, Chicago

Kathleen Weiler
Tufts University

Lois Weiner
New Jersey City University

Matthew Weinstein
Teacher Educator
Tacoma, WA

Kevin Welner
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

Angela Wheat
Freeport High School

Barbara Winslow
Brooklyn College

Kathy Xiong
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Diana Zavala
Change the Stakes

Yong Zhao
Author and Scholar

Al Zucker
New Day Academy, Bronx

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.
*  The last update was Jan. 23, 2013, 5:32 p.m. CST.

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wayneheadshotby Wayne Au

On the afternoon of Thursday, January 10th, a group of about 15 teachers stood together in the front of room 206 at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington. News cameras and audio recorders from local media outlets crowded the podium as reporters, students, colleagues, and supporters listened closely. The teachers at Garfield High School were announcing that they had agreed, nearly unanimously, to resist giving the district-mandated computer test known as the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) to their students.

One by one, teachers explained why they had made this decision. Some talked about the wasting of valuable classroom time for a test that is given three times a year. Some talked about the inaccuracy of the test because it wasn’t aligned with grade level content standards. Some talked about how, even though experts at the Northwest Evaluation Association (creators of the MAP) have cautioned against using high-stakes, standardized tests for teacher evaluation, the Seattle Public Schools will be using the MAP test as part of their evaluations anyway.

Some reported that district officials had admitted that the measurement error of the MAP is greater than any of the expected gains at the high school level, rendering the results invalid. Some discussed that, since there were no stakes attached for students, by the time the third MAP test rolled around many students just clicked buttons to get it over with, making the results inaccurate. And all of the teachers stressed that they were interested in doing what is best for the education of their students.

As I stood in the back of the room peering over the shoulders of reporters and between the news camera tripods, I was ecstatic. I am a proud graduate of Garfield High School, class of 1990, and I even returned there as a social studies and language arts teacher for the 2000-2001 school year. When I approached the classroom press conference that afternoon, I was overcome with memories of walking those very same halls as both a teacher and a student—studying Spanish in this room, teaching 9th grade language arts in that room.

I also remembered some of my teachers there, especially Mr. Davis and his powerful African Studies class, and I remembered my own struggle as a teacher to keep that same African Studies class alive in the curriculum [see “Decolonizing the Classroom,” Rethinking Schools, Winter 2008/2009]. And now I was here as a teacher of teachers and researcher of standardized testing, showing support for Garfield teachers, some of whom are personal friends and political allies. I couldn’t have been happier.

Located in the historically African American neighborhood of Seattle known as the Central District, Garfield High School has a long political history. For instance, Garfield was a well-known Seattle hotspot of Black Panther activity in the 1960s and ‘70s. More recently, last year Garfield students walked out en masse and marched to the mayor’s office to protest cuts to public education. And now Garfield teachers have taken the bold step of collectively resisting a district-mandated high-stakes, standardized test.

As news of the Garfield teacher resistance spread (and is spreading), it quickly and rightly became a cause celebre amongst progressive education activists who have been fighting against corporate education reform. People like Diane Ravitch and Brian Jones have been posting about it, and teachers, parents, students, and professors from around the United States and the globe have been expressing their support at the facebook solidarity page. There is now an online petition to sign in support of the Garfield teachers, and teachers from other schools, including Seattle’s Ballard High School, are drafting and signing their own letters of support. Garfield’s student leadership has also lent their support. In the words of student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry, “We really think our teachers are making the right decision. I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class.”

As I watched the press conference one thing I realized is that in their collective resistance, the individual teachers at Garfield framed their resistance in different ways. From their remarks, for some this was a rejection of standardized testing and the corporate education reform agenda more broadly, while for others this was just about an awful test.

In this “big tent” approach, I think the Garfield teachers are sharing at least two important lessons with us:

  1. Effective education activism sometimes means bringing folks together around a specific issue, but doing so in a way that is broad enough to capture a relatively diverse range of viewpoints on that issue; and
  2. However individual Garfield teachers make sense of their protest, within the broader context of the struggles against high-stakes testing and corporate education reform nationwide, this action takes on important symbolic meaning that extends well beyond Garfield, the Central District, and Seattle.

At the most basic level, the national corporate school reform agenda requires teachers’ compliance. So regardless of individual motives, when a group of teachers collectively and publicly says NO, that represents a fundamental challenge to those pushing that elite agenda. The growing support for Garfield teachers’ resistance to the MAP test is a testament to just how much the collective action of teachers at one school means to the rest of the world.

Having all of the teachers at a school decide to support a boycott of a high-stakes, standardized test is a rare and beautiful thing, one that hasn’t happened since some Chicago teachers did it over a decade ago. That is powerful and inspirational stuff, and as far as I’m concerned, because we don’t yet know the district’s response, the teachers at Garfield are showing a level courage and heroism that I love and admire. Thank you Garfield teachers. You make me proud to be a Garfield Bulldog.

Wayne Au is a Rethinking Schools editor and an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Washington, Bothell.  

Related Resources:

Testing our Limits,” by Melissa Bollow Tempel. Rethinking Schools, Spring 2012.

CovrPencilsDown120229.3_42Pencils Down: Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schoolsedited by Wayne Au and Melissa Bollow Tempel. 

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