Seattle Teachers Threatened with Suspension for Protesting Testing Mania
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Outside the SPS headquarters, Hagopian spoke to the crowd:
The district says they want us to use the MAP test to chart a course for the Seattle Public Schools--but the MAP test leads to a destination of inequality. A destination of inaccuracy. A destination called "ethics violation." But we teachers won't take our students to those places. We are saying here today we have different destination in mind--one called creativity and critical thinking.
In addition to local supporters and teachers themselves, the protesters heard messages of solidarity from Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, and Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, where testing was a key issue in last September's strike.
Unfortunately, Banda made it clear that he and the SPS administration aren't interested in engaging with the important questions teachers are raising about the MAP test. They have decided to meet the teachers' act of conscience with an act of force.
The teachers have made a clear case--that the test doesn't align with their curricula, nor with state standards on instruction; that the MAP consumes time and money that could be used much more productively; and that the authors of the test say it's inappropriate for use in evaluating teachers. SPS has no response to their case, only threats.
The teachers have reason and right on their side. Banda, on the other hand, holds the purse strings.
Now, the new movement against high-stakes standardized testing is itself facing a high-stakes test: Can we mobilize the kind of solidarity that would make it possible for the boycotters to stand strong in the face of these threats?
Will Banda and SPS teach us a lesson that resistance is futile? Or will we teach him a lesson: that people who dare to fight will have a mass movement at their back.
The teachers who have taken this bold step are of different minds about high-stakes standardized testing. Some favor replacing the MAP test with a different test that is actually aligned with their curricula. Others see this boycott as the opening act in a struggle against all high-stakes standardized testing.
Whatever the case, though, the situation is changed now. In addition to the specific questions about the MAP test and the broader problems with high-stakes testing, SPS has called into question the ability of teachers to act collectively in the interests of quality teaching and learning.
Only a few months after the Chicago Teachers Union strike galvanized the struggle to save public education, the MAP test boycott begun in Seattle has opened up a new confrontation--smaller in scale, but critically important--in the challenge to the priorities of so-called education "reform."
Everyone who wants to defend and improve public education needs to lend their energy in support of the MAP test boycott and to defend these teachers. They are truly fighting for all of us.
Seattle teachers are asking supporters of the boycott to flood Superintendent Banda's office with calls and e-mails asking SPS to retreat from its threat to impose suspensions on teachers who act out of professional and ethical concerns in refusing to administer the MAP test. Call 206-252-0180 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.