Seattle Test Boycott Teachers Won’t Be Disciplined By District

It's official: Seattle school teachers who boycotted the state standardized exams earlier this year will not be penalized.

Staff and students at several schools throughout the city refused to go along with the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test because they claimed it aligned poorly with Washington's academic curriculum and would have a negative impact on teachers' professional assessment. Although the protesting teachers were initially threatened with punishment by district officials – up to 10 days of unpaid leave – after shifting their stance several times, including to a point of saying that only the teachers failing to administer the test would be disciplined and not those merely protesting, officials have announced that no punishment will be forthcoming.

Seattle Public Schools superintendent Jose Banda made it official on the district's website on Friday where he wrote that even those who refused to administer the test will escape discipline. Furthermore, Banda posted that the district will be rolling back on the testing going forward, saying that only students who are reading below grade level in 9th grade will need to take the reading portion of MAP this spring.

"No doubt this is great news for the teachers who took a risk to (do) what is right for their students," said Kris McBride, a testing coordinator and one of the leaders of the boycott. Dozens of teachers took part in the protest. McBride said top officials had told principals and vice principals at schools to give the test themselves, sidestepping boycotting educators – and the need for disciplinary action.

The protest fueled a bitter political battle over how best to reinvigorate U.S. public schools, which have left American children lagging their counterparts in countries like Finland and South Korea.

The boycott – which was in defiance of state law – kicked off this January at Garfield High School where teachers refused to administer the exam saying that the results, which are used to as part of the state's teacher assessment system, would be poor indicators of teacher quality. For three weeks Garfield teachers defied Banda's demands that they administer the test because they felt it poorly corresponded to the material they were being required to teach.

The President of the Seattle Education Association explained that the teachers were frustrated because MAP doesn't line up with the state curriculum and doesn't provide the feedback teachers need to improve their own performance and that of their students.

In the end, roughly 100 of Garfield's 9th graders did end up taking the exam, which was proctored by school administrators without the involvement of the teachers.

As Linda Shaw reports, teachers at Garfield have been boycotting the required Measures of Academic Progress tests for over a month. Superintendent Jose Banda has ordered the school's administration to find a way to give the tests without the teachers' cooperation.

The test boycott has drawn national attention since it began in early January. The Chicago Teachers' Union and many other activists and writers have spoken out in support of Garfield staff. Teachers say that the test is useless and takes up school resources.

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