Seattle Teachers Continue Standardized Test Boycott

Teachers in Seattle have continued in their boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress test saying that it isn’t a good indicator of student performance since it so poorly aligned with the curriculum used by the state’s public schools. Since the test results are used – though indirectly – to assess teachers’ quality, protesters felt that there was no upside to administering an exam that in their view was fundamentally flawed.

Yearly testing as a measure of student progress took root in America with the passage of President George W. Bush’s landmark No Child Left Behind act. Now, Sandy Kress, who was one of Bush’s chief advisers on the law and who lobbies for the educational publisher Pearson, says that standardized tests alone do not paint an accurate picture of student achievement.

Sandy Kress, a former adviser to Bush on the law and lobbyist for Pearson, a company that publishes academic tests, said focusing too much on test scores alone will, in the end, cheat students out of the kind of quality education that sometimes can’t be measured by standardized tests.

“If it’s all back to just grades … a lot of people will have an easy time for about 10 years, (but later) our kids will suffer dramatically,” Kress said.

Still, the testing mania has barely subsided since the Democratic Party gained the White House. Both President Barack Obama and his U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan support yearly testing, although have indicated that they are willing to be flexible in addressing the concerns of teachers and administrators. Duncan expressed sympathy with the frustrations of those employed in districts and states where various standardized exams are administered multiple times each year. He said that the administration supports finding a “middle ground” in the testing debate.

Increasingly, standardized tests carry high stakes. Teachers are often evaluated in part by their students’ scores, and students may have to pass a standardized test to advance to the next grade in elementary school or earn a high-school diploma. To prepare students for those high-stakes exams, and to monitor their academic progress more closely, many school districts – like Seattle – give additional standardized tests throughout the year.

In Seattle, MAP is administered three times every year, which is how, as the Northwest Evaluation Association who publishes the exam explains, the fairest progress report on each student could be produced. However, many families and students disagree, and have taken steps to minimize the effectiveness of MAP by either opting their children out or by encouraging them to answer questions randomly and quickly in order to make the results unusable.