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