There are many ways teachers are fighting back against the Common Core high stakes tests. We delivered our Letters of Professional Conscience to our school board, and Seattle teachers are finding new ways to empower teachers, parents, and students by refusing to administer the test.
This blog exists to tell these stories in order to spread a movement led by courageous teacher leaders – teachers doing what we do best – teaching. In this case, we are here to teach other teachers how to resist the test. The test is the glue that holds corporate education reform together. Without the test, corporate reform’s house of cards falls, collapsing the fundamental hoax of so-called “failing schools”.
Things are heating up in Seattle. Last year it was Scrap the Map (Measures of Academic Progress). That movement spread across the nation:
“Garfield’s actions helped spark a national movement to oppose the abuses of standardized testing. In Portland, students initiated their own boycott of the OAKS tests. Some 10,000 parents and students marched in Texas against the overuse of high-stakes tests. Kindergartners and their parents staged a “play-in” at the Chicago School District headquarters against the replacement of the arts with norm-referenced exams.” ~ Jesse Hagopian, Liza Campbell (2013), Seattle Times
This year, Nathan Hale’s Senate – which is their leadership team consisting of students, parents, and teachers – voted to refuse to give the SBAC to all 11th grade students. The Nathan Hale teachers gave the following reasons for their refusal written February 24th, 2015:
Reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included (summary):1. Not required for graduation2. Colleges will not use them this year3. Since NCLB requires all students pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that, all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.4. It is neither valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide next instructional steps.5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.6. Student made this point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.
This is an important step. Nathan Hale is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.This resolution does not mean NHHS will refuse the 10th grade SBAC assessments, sorry to say. But the way the school went about the decision is a powerful model for other schools, and means that anything is still possible in that regard.Yay.Doug Edelstein
Earlier today teachers of Redmond, WA Middle School teachers issued a press release condemning the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA/SBAC). David Sudmeier shared what led the teachers to this decision:
“We have had hours upon hours of administrative and student time dedicated to “preparing for the test.” We have seen teaching time eroded and a decrease in what ought to be a student-centered endeavor. Data-driven decisions have trumped professional judgment. We are exhausted and alienated from our own profession.
We had a union meeting, where I presented the resolution and opportunity for teachers to sign. We had a very productive discussion; a few adjustments to language, and we were ready.”
The press release is as follows:
Local Teachers Condemn New Standardized Tests
REDMOND, Washington-March 26, 2015-
Teachers at Redmond Middle School in the Lake Washington School District have publicly announced their objection to the “Smarter Balanced Assessments” to be administered to students this spring. Their announcement comes as educators across the nation have begun to react against standardized testing and its negative effects on teaching and learning.
“For me, it’s a matter of social justice,” said David Sudmeier, a twenty-eight year veteran teacher at Redmond Middle School. “We might as well pass out scores on the basis of family income. These tests pretend to offer an objective measure of student learning, but really discriminate against students who have parents working multiple jobs, who have limited home resources for activities that support learning, and who may go home to a bare cupboard instead of a warm, nourishing meal.”
“We care deeply about student learning,” remarked Shell Lockwood, who is about to end a long career as a teacher of gifted students, “but we don’t get any useful information from these tests. By the time scores are reported, those students have moved on. Every group of students is unique, and we can’t assume that the next group will have the same needs or abilities. These tests are more a distraction from productive teaching and learning than anything else.”
Some people might find it odd that teachers who object to the test are going to administer the test anyway? “Our kids are the bottom line,” said Lockwood. “We want the public to know that we stand by our students to support them in a no-win situation. To abandon them just as testing begins would be unthinkable.”
So what can parents do in this situation? “Many of us are parents, too,” said Adam Wujick, math teacher at RMS. “I am disappointed in the lost instructional time for both my own kids and my students. I know that some parents are opting their children out of standardized testing entirely.”
It’s quite apparent that these teachers are determined to make their voice heard. “We have confidence in the wisdom of parents and the public,” said Sudmeier. “Now we just need our state legislators to heed our state constitution and lift public education to its rightful position as the paramount concern.”
From members of the Lake Washington Education Association of Redmond Middle School, east of Seattle, and part of the Lake Washington School District:
A RESOLUTION OF DISAPPROVAL OF THE SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT
WHEREAS, the stated mission of the Lake Washington School District is that ”Each student will graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society;” and
WHEREAS, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not required for graduation; and
WHEREAS, this computer based assessment will take approximately eight hours for each student to complete and its confusing format is unlike anything students will experience outside the testing environment; and
WHEREAS, student computers and district infrastructure are unreliable and it is unacceptable for students to have learning time diverted to an activity so likely to be plagued with technical issues; and
WHEREAS, the failure rate of the assessment is likely to be extraordinarily high (possibly 60%) for the general population and even higher for students of color, ELL students, and students on individualized education plans; and
WHEREAS, student performance on this test is unlikely to be indicative of learning, but very likely to correlate directly with family socioeconomic status; and
WHEREAS, graduation and standardized testing requirements in Washington State are in constant flux, confusing, and poorly communicated; and
WHEREAS, the sheer number of state mandated standardized tests and End of Course exams deprives teachers of adequate time to provide instruction and for students to learn; and
WHEREAS, some of these exams may impact high school graduation; and
WHEREAS, during the testing window teachers are also administering unit tests, year-end finals and facilitating summative projects; and
WHEREAS, the detrimental impact on school schedules, student learning, teacher and administrative work time is out of proportion to the limited value of the test results; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, we, members of the Lake Washington Education Association at Redmond Middle School object to the administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for spring 2015 as an unacceptable obstruction to assisting students to “… graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society.”
We are personally grateful to these courageous teachers in Seattle and Redmond. Our students can’t be subjected to another 13 years of increased testing and punishment. It is time for this movement to grow by empowering teachers across the globe to stand up for children. Parents and students can find out more information about refusing the test or opting out at http://www.UnitedOptOut.com.
What do you think? Should teachers across the country join together and refuse to give the test? Should students and parents join in the movement to refuse the test? Have you started a movement in your district? Share your story with us here.