Monday, January 14, 2013

MORE, Change the Stakes Support Garfield HS Teacher Test Resisters

Joint Tweed/UFT Firing Squad
A nationwide movement of creative insubordination may be the only way to put a stop to the injustice now imposed on America’s public schools, teachers and especially students." -- Adam Urbanski, President Rochester Teachers Union
Can you imagine the UFT supporting teachers here if they led a test boycott here? They would assist the Tweedies in choosing the firing squad. I'll tell you more at another time of my tweeting war with Randi and Leo over whether the UFT really opposes high stakes testing. {Hey guys, I'm waiting for AFT/UFT messages of support to these teachers. Ho hum, better not wait too long.}

Fred Smith from Change the Stakes commented:

The revolution is near.  Time to dump all of the T in the harbor...  Examinations and privatization without representation are tyranny.  The colonies are feeling it.
Meanwhile, the UFT--which has denied its rank and file a voice in the matter and has stood in the way of an organized, mutually-empowering parent alliance--is now ready to compromise with its demonizers and bashers.  While the movement to oppose high stakes testing is on the march, the union is conspiring to subject its members to test-polluted teacher evaluations.
Two pieces of advice to the so-called UFT leadership:  Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.  And recognize what Walt Kelly (Pogo) said. "We have met the enemy and it is us."

We were one of the first out of the box (thanks to Brian Jones, MORE candidate for UFT Secretary) with reports of the Seattle teacher test boycott an hour before their press conference: Seattle Teachers Revolt Against High Stakes Test.

Since then the response has made heroes out of the teachers, who will undoubtedly face serious repercussions.

Susan Ohanian suggests:
I don't usually sign or share Change petitions  because of some of their past hijinks. But the Garfield teachers in Seattle are using Change for their petition, so I'm urging everyone to sign it. They need hundreds of thousands of signatures supporting them. This is not a high stakes test but saying NO! is a huge step for teachers. Let's scare Obama-Duncan and Bill Gates by showing that there are seeds of resistance out there.
Parent activist in Seattle Dora Taylor:
What can I say…Seattle teachers rock!!!!
Dora reports that the PTA and the Seattle Teachers Union support the teachers and "Within hours, teachers at Ballard High School followed suit."
(See statements of support below the Change the Stakes support message.)

Can you imagine the UFT supporting teachers here if they did that here? They would assist the Tweedies in choosing the firing squad.

Ravitch posted this on the resistance:
Adam Urbanski, head of the Rochester (NY) Teachers Union, offers this advice:
"In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King wrote, 'There are just laws and unjust laws. And we are obligated to disobey the unjust laws.' A nationwide movement of creative insubordination may be the only way to put a stop to the injustice now imposed on America’s public schools, teachers and especially students."

MORE used its meatgrinder approach (where a number of people get to chip in) to forge this statement:

In Solidarity with Garfield H.S. Teachers

11 Jan Statement from the Movement of Rank and File Educators, The Social Justice Caucus of the UFT (United Federation of Teachers)
In Solidarity with Garfield H.S. Teachers

We, the members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) stand in solidarity with the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who are refusing to administer standardized tests this semester. Risking their own livelihoods to stand up for authentic teaching and learning and against the proliferation of high-stakes standardized testing, they are fighting for teachers, educators, parents and, students nationwide. All over this country, teachers and students are frustrated, demoralized, and bored by the increasing pressure to raise standardized test scores and to equate those scores with learning. All of the “data” generated by these tests have become a stick to beat students, teachers, and unions, and have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. We agree with the teachers of Garfield High School that these tests represent a profound waste of time and money, especially while too many of our schools are starved of basic resources. We stand in solidarity with these brave educators, and encourage parents, teachers and students nationwide to support them as well.

Movement Of Rank & File Educators (MORE)
Please “Like” The Teacher’s of Garfield H.S. Seattle Facebook page at
Change the Stakes joined the chorus.
We, the members of Change The Stakes stand in solidarity with the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who are refusing to administer standardized, high-stakes tests to their students as they see these as a "waste of time and money".  Teachers at Garfield High School are setting an example for other teachers and parents to rally against these tests that have been, and continue, to distort education for our children and the stability of the teaching profession. It is clear that the feelings here in New York about these tests are felt nation-wide. As parents and teachers of Change The Stakes we are grateful for your courage and we share your struggle. May more teachers and parents take the stand against these standardized measures that have only created fear of school by students and teachers.

In solidarity,

The Garfield High School PTSA issued the following statement today in support of the teachers:

From the Garfield High School PTSA Board Members
Written by President, Phil Sherburne
You may have seen in the news that the Garfield teachers have decided that they are no longer going to give the MAP tests to 9th grade students at Garfield. These are tests that are given three times during the 9th grade year to assess a student’s performance level in reading and math and their progress during the course of the year. These tests have nothing to do with a student’s grades or their progress toward graduation. The test results are just information for the teachers and the school district.
However, because the tests have no consequences for the student, many students do not take them seriously. As a result the test results do not really measure a student’s knowledge level. Teachers also object because the tests are not connected to what is being taught in the classroom and they take up a lot of time. Further, the teachers are concerned that the test results might be used to evaluate teachers which they believe would be inappropriate. The teachers believe that the grades the students are earning in the classroom are much better measures of the student’s knowledge level and educational progress.
The Garfield PTSA shares the concerns of the teachers at Garfield with the MAP testing and supports termination of these tests. There are many students who start the 9th grade who cannot perform 9th grade level math and english work. Some students are far behind. The real issue is what the school district is going to do, starting early in a student’s educational life, to help as many students as possible perform at grade level. A major effort to get students to grade level performance and to keep them there through graduation requires a focus and resources that we have not seen from the District or the Legislature. It is this focus on improving student achievement and providing the resources to accomplish it that deserves all our attention.

According to the Seattle Times in an article titled Union supports Garfield teachers’ refusal to give district test:
In the statement, SEA President Jonathan Knapp said he wants the district to set a date to stop using the MAP exams.  He also said that concerns over those tests are part of larger questions about the costs of testing, and how much time schools devote to it.
The union listed its concerns as follows:
  • The test does not line up with state standards.
  • The test does not line up with district curriculum.
  • The test takes valuable time away from student learning.
  • Many students do not take the test seriously.
  • The testing time frame takes valuable time away from students in the school being able to access computer labs and libraries for other projects.
  • The data obtained is of minimal use to teachers in planning lessons and meeting individual student needs.

    Standardized test backlash: Some Seattle teachers just say 'no'

    Resistance to standardized tests has been simmering for years, but now a group of Seattle teachers is in open revolt. No longer will they administer the tests, they say, citing a waste of public resources.

    By Dean Paton | Christian Science Monitor – 20 hrs ago

    Forty-five minutes after school let out Thursday afternoon, 19 teachers here at Seattle's Garfield High School worked their way to the front of an already-crowded classroom, then turned, leaned their backs against the wall of whiteboards, and fired the first salvo of open defiance against high-stakes standardized testing in America's public schools.
    To a room full of TV cameras, reporters, students, and colleagues, the teachers announced their refusal to administer a standardized test that ninth-graders across the district are mandated to take in the first part of January. Known as the MAP test – for Measures of Academic Progress – it is intended to evaluate student progress and skill in reading and math.
    First one teacher, then another, and then more stepped forward to charge that the test wastes time, money, and dwindling school resources. It is also used to evaluate teacher quality.
    “Our teachers have come together and agreed that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,” said Kris McBride, academic dean and testing coordinator at Garfield High. “Additionally, students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”
    RECOMMENDED: Are you as well read as the average 10th grader?
    Garfield’s civil yet disobedient faculty appears to be the first group of teachers nationally to defy district edicts concerning a standardized test, but the backlash against high-stakes testing has been percolating in other parts of the country.
  • The New York State Principals association recently issued a scathing letter, nearly four pages of “unintended negative consequences” it claims such tests foment.
  • In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr has called for a three-year moratorium on standardized testing.
  • In north Texas last year, superintendents of several high-performing school districts signed a letter to state officials and lawmakers saying high-stakes standardized testing is “strangling our public schools.” As of Jan. 8, 880 districts that educate more than 4.4 million Texas students have adopted a resolution opposing these tests.
“This high-stakes testing – there needs to be a moratorium on it, because it’s out of control,” says Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, N.Y. “None of these tests really have anything to do with curriculum. Maybe they have a little bit to do with math. But that’s it.”

Dr. Burris co-authored the letter for the New York State principals. On Dec. 31, she started a petition in New York opposing high-stakes testing. In 10 days, she says, 5,500 administrators, teachers, and parents have signed it.
“Parents are stressed. Teachers are stressed. Kids are stressed by these tests more than parents,” Burris says. “And when you tie teachers’ evaluations to these tests, the teachers end up focusing their lessons on the tests. And that’s starting to destroy elementary education.”

At Montgomery County Public Schools, America’s 17th largest district, Dr. Starr says the conflicting demands of the No Child Left Behind Act and the emerging Common Core State Standards Initiative (sanctioned by 46 states and the District of Columbia) are overwhelming districts, teachers, and resources.

“It’s not because I’m opposed to all standardized testing. Standardized tests do have a place,” he says. “But more and more folks are starting to recognize these standardized tests are not designed to do what we’re being asked to do with them. They’re a very narrow measure.”

Starr says many standardized tests detract from teachers’ ability to prepare students effectively: “This isn’t about saying, ‘Do away with all standardized testing.’ It’s about saying, ‘Do away with tests that are not aligned with what kids will actually need to do in the 21st century.’ ”
Starr’s words could well have been uttered here at Garfield.

“In 26 years of teaching,” says Kit McCormack, who teaches English, “this is the first time I’ve said, ‘I’m not giving this test.’ It’s not that I think my ninth-graders should not be tested. I want my ninth-graders to be tested. I teach to the Common Core standards, and I am happy to teach those standards. Bottom line is: The test is not useful to my students.”
Ms. McBride, the academic dean, said Garfield teachers “have a myriad of reasons for not administering the MAP test,” including “no evidence” the test is aligned with state and local curriculum, that it’s “filled with things that aren’t a part of the curriculum at all,” and that the district uses student test scores to grade teachers, even though the company that markets the test says it should not be used to assess teacher effectiveness.
“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry. “I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class – and we have great classes here at Garfield. I know students who just go through the motions when taking the test, just did it as quickly as possible so they could do something more useful with their time.”
When someone asked the teachers if they were worried about what lessons students might take away from their collective defiance of the district, Mario Shauvette, chairman of the math department, stepped forward. “I’m teaching by example,” he said. “If I don’t step up now, who will? I’m taking charge of what I do here.”
Officials from Seattle Public Schools refused to discuss the faculty’s announcement, but it issued a three-paragraph e-mail that included a general admonition: “Seattle Public Schools expects our teachers to administer all required tests, pursuant to our policies and procedures.”
Seattle school officials say the MAP test, which is given as many as three times per year, "helps improve academic decision-making and accountability." Moreover, district officials say they are reviewing the effectiveness of the MAP program, including input from teachers and principals, and expect to report results this spring.

The teachers know they’re violating district policy, as well as their union contract. They realize consequences could be severe. “But the people down at district headquarters are wise people, good people,” said history teacher Jesse Hagopian. “We all want what’s best for our students, and the faculty here is confident we can work together and come up with ways of evaluating our kids that are a lot more effective than this test.”

Center for Fair & Open Testing
                                                                        for further information:
                                                                        Dr. Monty Neill   (617) 477-9792
                                                                        Bob Schaeffer     (239) 395-6773

for immediate release Monday, January 14, 2013
The country’s leading testing reform organization today announced its support for the boycott of Seattle Public Schools’ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam launched by teachers at Garfield High School. National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) Executive Director Dr. Monty Neill said, “Children across the U.S. suffer from far too much standardized testing that is misused to judge students, teachers and schools. We applaud Garfield High educators who refused to administer these useless exams and urge others to join in.”
Dr. Neill explained, “Seattle requires administration of the MAP tests three times per year. This eliminates days of valuable teaching time and ties up the school’s computer labs for weeks. The tests are used to judge teachers even though they are not aligned with the state’s standards and not instructionally helpful. The Northwest Evaluation Association, which makes the test, says the MAPs are not accurate enough to evaluate individual teachers. No wonder some Seattle parents began opting their children out of these pointless tests even before the teachers’ boycott.”
“Nationally, students are inundated with tests far beyond the ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) requirement to assess students annually in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school,” Dr. Neill continued. “States and especially large city districts have piled on many more tests. For example, Chicago tests kindergarteners 14 or more times per year. Many of these tests were added to obtain federal NCLB waivers, which force states and districts to impose more exams so they can judge teachers by student scores.”
According to FairTest, the high stakes attached to tests have led to narrowing curriculum, teaching to the test, score inflation and cheating scandals. Despite the focus on tests, scores gains on the independent National Assessment of Educational Progress have slowed since the 2002 start of NCLB and are well below pre-NCLB score increases. Score gaps between whites and African Americans and Latinos have stopped narrowing.
“High-stakes testing is undermining the quality of U.S. schools and the education our children deserve,” Dr. Neill concluded. “Teachers and parents who boycott standardized exams are taking the lead to reduce over-testing and the consequences attached to it. President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Congress, governors, state legislators, and local school officials need to heed these voices and stop imposing unnecessary and educational harmful testing.”

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