Standardized Testing Battle in Seattle: Union votes for a complete moratorium on all standardized tests!


I am bursting with pride for my union.

The Seattle Education Association voted at this week’s Representative Assembly to support a resolution calling for a moratorium on all standardized testing!  This vote comes in a long line of organizing and opposition to high-stakes testing in Seattle.

In 2013, the teachers at Garfield High School voted unanimously to refuse to administer the MAP test.  The boycott spread to several other schools in Seattle.  When the superintendent threatened the boycotting teachers with a 10 day suspension without pay, none of the teachers backed down.  At the end of the year, because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students around the country, not only were no teachers disciplined, but the superintended announced that the MAP test would no longer be required for Seattle’s high schools.  In the subsequent years we have seen the movement continue to develop with Nathan Hale High School achieving a 100% opt out rate of the junior class of the Smarter Balance test in 2015, with some 60,000 families opting their kids out of the common core test around Washington State.


Despite these heroic efforts to stand up to the testocracy, they are still trying to reduce teaching a learning to a score and use that score to punish students.  Thousands of students will not graduate from high school across Washington State simply because they didn’t pass the common core test.  The average student in the public schools in the U.S. takes an outlandish 112 standardized tests in the K-12 career–forcing teachers to teach to the test, rather than teach to the student.  Study after study has reveled that these tests are a better measure of family income than aptitude.  These test measure resources and your proximity to the dominant culture, negatively impacting English Language Learners, special education students, students of color, and low income students.

For all these reasons and more, my colleague Jeff Treistman, introduced a New Business Item (NBI) to bring before the Seattle Education Association this week to consider taking a bold stance against the outrageous over testing of students. Below is a short statement from Jeff explaining his reasoning behind the successful resolution, and gives us the language of the NBI.  It is my sincere hope that the Seattle School Board heeds this resolution and moves to implement a “two year moratorium on all standardized testing, at the district, state, and federal levels and to open a public forum along with Seattle Public Schools on the best way to assess our students.”


Standardized Testing Moratorium

By Jeff Treistman

The most exciting aspect of the moratorium is the number of possibilities it opens. The removal of testing from our practice means that there is more time to dedicate to “non-standard” curriculum for example. This opens the possibility of more interdisciplinary problem based learning. It opens the possibility of alternative assessments that more readily capture the diverse brilliance of our student population. The positive impact on curriculum includes actually being able to create culturally responsive classrooms. Beyond curriculum there are some other possibilities. It opens the possibility of a windfall for the district budget as funds will not be needed to pay for the testing services. It also provides leverage in the upcoming bargain with a message that says we are serious about this work.

There are some features of the structure of the resolution that need to be highlighted. It has no specified start time which leaves some flexibility when negotiating with the Seattle Public Schools. The resolution gives teachers more power in curriculum decision making. The structure of the forums is left open because they would be complex logistical activities requiring a lot of organizing and the resolution does not want to limit the scope of the team that would work on them. The method for gathering data on assessment innovations is also complex and requires a lot of work, so it too is left open. This is not argument that leads to lower expectations and the removal of all standards. In fact the exact opposite is true; this would help us raise expectations and add enough standards to assess every individual according to their agreed upon set of standards.

Rally_Against_testingThis is the way to customize education to serve the needs of such diversity in our student body. Finally, this moratorium is a clear indictment of  and pointed action against systemic racism.

Here then is the resolution that passed in the Seattle Education Association:

New Business Item, Seattle Education Association

Testing Moratorium


standardized testing has been well documented for decades as a racist tool that further widens the gap between students of color and their white peers. Stephen Jay Gould published The Mismeasure of Man in 1981 and in 2016 Ibram X. Kendi published Stamped from the Beginning as just two of the many excellent examples of the research that has been done on this issue. Kendi says, “Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies.”

And whereas,

the SEA RA and the Seattle School Board have each unanimously approved resolutions in support of ethnic studies which are significantly hindered by the Eurocentric content and practices of standardized testing.

And whereas,

test results reinforce the sense of entitlement for high scorers, the sense of worthlessness in low scorers and the sense of mediocrity for those in the middle. Since test results correlate most strongly with economic status, their use as an indicator of achievement or potential is completely invalid.

And whereas,

they introduce unhealthy levels of stress into the school environment. This is true for every single member of the school community. It contradicts any goals of reducing stress levels to improve learning. There is already enough stress built into growing up. We don’t need to add more.

And whereas,

they reduce the learning experience to mere curriculum based on standards generated by distant technocrats. We have students taking two and three math and reading classes of the most crushingly boring type of rote learning instead of art, dance, expeditionary or experiential learning etc, in order to boost test scores.

And whereas,

SPS and SEA have joined together to form race and equity teams across the district that recognize the barrier created by standardized testing and how it provides unequal results based on race and class.

And whereas,

years have passed since the WEA and the NEA launched campaigns to end toxic testing.

And whereas,

the King County NAACP resolved on April 15, 2016 to “strongly advocate for a multiple measures qualitative and quantitative community-based dashboard approaches to evaluate the success of states, district schools, teachers and students without the primary or majority focus being a high-stakes standardized exam” and to “support parents who decide to opt-out of testing as a social protest”.

And whereas,

standardized testing has and continues to degrade professionalism in our teaching corps.

Therefore be it resolved that SEA call for a two year moratorium on all standardized testing, at the district, state, and federal levels and to open a public forum along with SPS on the best way to assess our students. Teachers will not be compelled to assess their students using any 3rd party assessment tools.

Be it further resolved that SEA will work with SPS to create waivers. Waivers may be needed during the moratorium for students barred from graduation due to state testing requirements, schools denied Title 1 funding and other reasons. Ongoing work to delink high school graduation requirements from testing will continue.

The moratorium will be considered a period of action research which will inform strategic planning for the authentic assessment of Seattle students.



15 thoughts on “Standardized Testing Battle in Seattle: Union votes for a complete moratorium on all standardized tests!

  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    Study after study has revealed that these tests are a better measure of family income than aptitude. These test measure resources and your proximity to the dominant culture, negatively impacting English Language Learners, special education students, students of color, and low income students.


  2. melchi34

    For decades teachers have been treated with great disrespect and they had tried as much as possibly simply to comply. There have been times when teachers were fired, principals fired, when they did not live up to the demands placed on them. Over time, decades, they have slowly fought back and this has reached the point where they have lifted up their level of organization in fighting against the inequitable conditions imposed on them.
    This is a good thing, as a result we are seeing teachers running for political office. Big business has a different point of view about education and it runs harshly contrary to the educators’ much more reasonable perspective of what an education is supposed to provide, a developed human being.
    Tests are made to assess students and when they become, as they seem to do presently, a thing in themselves, they are more destructive than useful. Countries such as Finland realized that tests must be guided and done by the teachers, who use it in accomplishing limited goals.
    That teachers are finally asserting themselves, after accepting such punishing treatment, is a good thing for then the discourse changes takes on its needed emphasis; how do we find ways to meet the needs of teachers in providing a valued education for all our students, instead of trying to force teachers to do the impossible. We have nothing but praise that teachers are standing up for they will alter the equation considerably and ultimately lead to a sensible way of addressing the educational needs of our students.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. “Thousands of students will not graduate from high school across Washington State simply because they didn’t pass the common core test.”

    And that folks is prima facia evidence that through the state sanctioned testing regime the state, through its schools is unconstitutionally discriminating against some students due to inherent characteristics/capabilities. The state is not allowed to discriminate against other innate characteristics such as skin color, gender, disability and even non-innate religious beliefs. Why the hell is the state allowed to discriminate via mental capabilities rewarding some students and castigating, as with those above-mentioned thousands of students?

    Especially considering the discriminating device, standardized tests have are rife with onto-epistemological errors and falsehoods and psychometric fudgings that render the usage of the results of said testing to be completely invalid. I can guarantee that some students will be denied that graduation because of the many errors in the standards and testing regime process. It can’t be denied.

    “Any educational practice that is shown to hinder, block and/or otherwise cause an individual to not be able to indulge in any of aspect of his/her rights as stated has to be considered as harmful and unjust not only to the individual but also to society and therefore must rightly be condemned as educational malpractice and ought to be immediately discontinued. Trampled rights are rights that are non-existent and the educational malpractice that tramples any right is unjust and as noted in Alabama’s constitution “is usurpation and oppression” and as Missouri’s declares “. . . when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.”

    I contend that many of today’s federal and state mandates and even long standing educational practices are, indeed, malpractices that trample the rights of the most innocent in society, the children, the students of all ages attending public schools, in essence “it [public education] fails in its chief design.” Should the government through the public schools be sorting, separating, ranking, and/or grading students through logically bankrupt invalid practices discriminating against some while rewarding others? I contend it should not! Where is the justice in discriminatory practices? By evaluating those malpractices against the aforementioned purpose we will be able to ascertain whether or not they are just.” (From Ch 1 The Purpose of Public Education in “Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractice in American Public Education” by D. Swacker)


  5. One more, both are a little long but I can’t say it any more succinctly.

    In the graphic it states: “Multiple choice & short answer tests are poor measures of student achievement*”.

    “Measures” and “student achievement” are the language of the edudeformers and privateers. Until we quit using their language and begin substituting more straight forward language that explicity explains what we mean, we’ll continue to lose the battle for public schools.

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing being “measured” by those tests:

    “The most misleading concept/term in education is “measuring student achievement” or “measuring student learning”. The concept has been misleading educators into deluding themselves that the teaching and learning process can be analyzed/assessed using “scientific” methods which are actually pseudo-scientific at best and at worst a complete bastardization of rationo-logical thinking and language usage.

    There never has been and never will be any “measuring” of the teaching and learning process and what each individual student learns in their schooling. There is and always has been assessing, evaluating, judging of what students learn but never a true “measuring” of it.

    The TESTS MEASURE NOTHING, quite literally when you realize what is actually happening with them. Richard Phelps, a staunch standardized test proponent (he has written at least two books defending the standardized testing malpractices) in the introduction to “Correcting Fallacies About Educational and Psychological Testing” unwittingly lets the cat out of the bag with this statement:

    “Physical tests, such as those conducted by engineers, can be standardized, of course, but in this volume, we focus on the measurement of latent (i.e., nonobservable) mental, and not physical, traits.”

    Notice how he is trying to assert by proximity that educational standardized testing and the testing done by engineers are basically the same, in other words a “truly scientific endeavor”. The same by proximity is not a good rhetorical/debating technique.

    Since there is no agreement on a standard unit of learning, there is no exemplar of that standard unit and there is no measuring device calibrated against said non-existent standard unit, how is it possible to “measure the nonobservable”?


    Finally, what the proponents of the educational standards and standardized testing regime don’t appear to understand is that in many areas of human feelings and interactions there cannot be any measurement. How does one measure the love of one’s spouse, children, parents or friends? How does one measure what is going on in the heart and mind of a distressed person who has just lost a loved one? Why do we even begin to think that we can measure what goes on in the body and brain of the student who is learning any subject matter considering all the various hormonal and endocrinal influences occurring outside the individual’s control, with the hundreds of millions if not billions of neuronal firings going on at any given moment that partially influence what happens in the mind of the student in a teaching and learning situation? How do we believe that the thousands and thousands of environmental influences on each individual could begin to be measured and accounted for? Are proponents of the educational standards and standardized testing “measurement” regime that arrogant, hubristic and presumptuous to believe that they hold the key to measuring the teaching and learning process or more specifically, the learning, aka, student achievement, of an individual student?

    Considering the facts of the misuse of language, logic and common sense as outlined above, the only wise course of action is to immediately cease and desist, to abandon those malpractices that harm so many students and contravene the state’s responsibility in providing a public education for all students. The billions of dollars spent by states on the educational standards and standardized testing regime would then be freed up to provide a better education for all students through perhaps such things as smaller class sizes, needed social services, foreign language instruction, arts programs, etc. And the state, by approving and mandating the fake standards and false measuring of student learning that are the malpractices of educational standards and standardized testing, is surely guilty of not promoting “the welfare of the individual so that each person may savor the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their own industry.” (From Ch. 6 Of Standards and Measurement in “Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractice in American Public Education” by D. Swacker)

    *Never gave a damn about “student achievement”. I cared about whether the student was learning as much as she/he wanted to and could.


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