Washington State Teachers Rebel Against Standardized Tests


Washington State teachers are refusing to give the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. The revolt began at Garfield High School in the Seattle School District when teachers there were informed that the results of those tests would be used in their evaluations. This was the last straw, as they say. Washington teachers and students have been critical of the standardized test since its inception, saying that it is a waste of time and resources for student and for teachers.

There were 19 teachers at Garfield HS who refused to administer the MAP, all of the instructors who were required to do so by the school district, but not by the state. The state has other tests it requires, such as the WASL – Washington Assessment of Student Learning – which is given 3 times during a child’s school years. But this MAP test is not a gauge of math, science or reading. In fact, teachers have no guidance at all in helping the students take the test. No sample questions, no study guides, nothing. Since the test has no bearing on their grades nor their ability to graduate, students are frustrated and puzzled as to why they must take them at all.

And the boycott has spread. Teachers at Ballard High School have joined the Garfield teachers in protesting. There is now a petition in support of the Seattle teachers and a Facebook page where comments supporting them are on ready display. Since state legislators passed a law last year that ties teachers’ and principals’ careers to the outcomes of the MAP, these are an important tool for spreading information and letting the teachers know that we’re behind them.

And the rebellion has spread to the WASL, as well. Carl Chew, a sixth-grade teacher at Eckstein Middle School earned himself a 9-day suspension (without pay, of course) for refusing to administer the test. The WASL is a bit more relevant than the MAP but, according to teachers and students, not by much. It supposedly measures academic performance and progress but has become much more about “teaching to the test.” Mr. Chew had been critical of the test before but this year he decided to take a stand. So he wrote a letter explaining his position and met with school administrators. He knew he would be suspended but he said it was worth it.

Full disclosure here, my daughter attended Washington State schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. She had to take the WASL three different times – in 4th, 7th and 10th grade – and the only result was frustration both on her part and on the part of the teachers who had to administer the test. The test has been controversial since it was instituted as it disrupted the actual curriculum, causing teachers to spend a disproportionate amount of time on teaching to the test. Many Washington State teachers and parents have voiced concern over the years, yet the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson, is a staunch supporter of the test. Critics of the WASL are hoping that Mr. Chew’s brave stand will move other teachers to follow suit.

Testing students certainly measures their academic progress and it is an important tool for teachers. But requiring them to spend time and resources on a test that does no good at all for the students and could be detrimental to the teachers is hardly fair. Indiscriminate testing is nothing but an intrusion onto the precious little time that teachers already have to instill a love of learning in our children. Let’s not allow it to ruin them.

Photobucket      T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…