Friday, April 26, 2013

Seattle Teachers Appeal for May Day Solidarity With Their Test Boycott

by Jack Gerson

Seattle teachers are calling for an international show of support and solidarity on May Day for their inspirational fight against high stakes standardized testing.

Readers of this blog may recall that three months ago, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High unanimously to refuse to administer the districtwide Measures of Academic Performance (MAP) standardized test and launched a boycott that has received national acclaim.  Their boycott has since spread to several other schools.

From the outset, this blog has supported the Garfield teachers, discussed the issues involved in some depth, and urged readers to send messages of solidarity. (See

But as the dates for administering the spring semester MAP tests approaches, Garfield teachers fear that the Seattle school administration may be preparing to victimize them. They are asking us to support them again. Here’s the letter they are circulating to appeal for support:

*_Educational Justice Has No Borders:_*
*_Join the May Day International Day of Solidarity _*
*_with the Seattle MAP Test Boycott_*
*_Seattle’s test boycotting teachers need your support for an “educators’ spring” uprising against the MAP test _*
**<>*__* 191135177694153&_rdr<>

Dear educators, parents, and students around the world,

On January 9, 2013, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle announced their unanimous vote to boycott the district mandated Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, which they said was not aligned to their curriculum, was a waste of their students' time and resources, and unfairly targeted the most vulnerable populations. Specifically, Garfield’s teachers expressed their opposition to the fact that English Language Learner students are required to take the MAP test most often, causing them to miss out on vital instructional time in the classroom. In this way, the boycott of the MAP test should be viewed as part of the movement for the rights of immigrants and people from all cultures, nationalities, and linguistic backgrounds to have access to a high quality public education. Garfield High School’s Parent Teacher Student Association and the Associated Student Body Government both voted unanimously to support the teachers' boycott of the MAP test.

Soon after, several other Seattle schools joined the boycott—Orca, Chief Sealth, Ballard, and Center School.Teachers at those schools were originally threatened with a 10 day suspension without pay, but because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students from across the country, the Seattle School District backed down and declined to discipline any of the boycotting educators. Since then, several other schools have joined the boycott, a survey of Seattle teachers was conducted that shows overwhelming opposition to the MAP test at every grade level, and the movement for quality assessment has spread throughout the nation.

Now the Seattle teachers need your support again.

The spring offering of the MAP test produces the scores that are supposed to be used in Seattle’s teacher evaluations.For this reason the Seattle School District could take a harsher stance against boycotting teachers this time around.

May Day is traditionally a day of international workers solidarity. What better time to show your support for the teachers who have risked their livelihoods to advocate for quality assessment and for our resources to be used to support learning rather than endless testing?

We, the Seattle MAP test boycotting teachers, pledge our solidarity to teachers around the world who are struggling for an education system that supports and empowers our students with curriculum and assessments that are relevant to their lives. In turn, we ask for your support as we struggle for these very goals. Possible solidarity actions include: taking a photo with a message of solidarity and emailing it to us (, calling the Seattle superintendent and asking him to cancel the contract with the NWEA for the MAP test, having a speaker at your May Day rally address the MAP boycott and the abuses of standardized testing, or boycotting a flawed test in your region.

Furthermore, we, the MAP test boycotting teachers, would very much appreciate being informed about struggles teachers are engaged in around the world. Please let us know if there are any ways we can support your efforts for educational justice.

In Solidarity,

Seattle MAP Test Boycott Committee

The Seattle letter touches on some of the most harmful aspects of high stakes testing.  There are many others, because standardized tests are essential to applying the austerity squeeze to education. They are used to keep score – to measure performance: evaluate, rank, punish students, teachers, and schools.
·      To track, label, and victimize students – marginalize and force out disproportionately low income, especially black students – no jobs or, at best, unskilled jobs await them;
·      To stamp out students’ natural curiosity by insisting on blind obedience: don’t think, just spit out the right answer: A, B, or C; True or False; Yes sir, No sir. Curiosity and conceptual thinking might lead to rebelliousness. Instead of emphasizing concepts and understanding, it’s drill ‘n kill rote learning and “gaming the test”.
·      To shut down schools in low-income communities (Chicago is closing 54 schools this year; Philadelphia 23; Washington DC 15; etc. New York City has closed 140 schools over the past decade, and plans to close 23 more soon. Etc. Nearly all of these schools are in low-income areas, and black communities have been especially hard hit. The result has been increased class size, intolerably long and often hazardous commutes for young students; layoffs of teacher and support staff; elimination of electives and other key programs. Schools are ranked and shuttered based on student scores on standardized tests.
·      To harass and victimize teachers and weaken teacher unions and force out veteran teachers. Replace teachers and schools with computer software and “distance learning.
·      To profit from and privatize public education. Close public schools, open charter schools. Hand out lucrative contracts to consultants and channel billions of dollars to giant corporations who sell everything from textbooks and software to standards and “test-taking strategies” (multinationals like Pearson; McGraw Hill; Kaplan; etc.)

They call austertity “shared sacrifice”. But what’s being sacrificed here is the future of tens of millions of young people. And not everyone is sharing – not the banks, bailed out to the tune of several trillion dollars. Not the big corporations, which continue to feast on austerity-induced privatization, not to mention the gigantic tax loopholes which just get wider and wider. This society’s priorities are upside down. It’s well past time to turn them right side up.

For starters, let’s express our solidarity with the Seattle teachers on May Day.

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