Supporting the teachers’ test boycott

January 22, 2013

More than 60 leading educators and researchers showed their support for the boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test by Garfield High School teachers in Seattle.

The signers include some of the most respected figures in the field of education, such as former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige. As Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield High teacher, said in a statement, "When I look at this list of names, I see the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today. Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way."


The use of standardized tests is spreading
To fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools in all 50 states administer standardized tests to students, often beginning in third grade, in reading and math. Now, in response to the demands of Race to the Top and the trend toward greater "accountability" in education, states are developing even more tests for more subjects. Standardized tests, once used primarily to assess student learning, have now become the main instrument for the high-stakes evaluation of teachers, administrators, and even entire schools and school systems.

Tests consume a great deal of time and money
Standardized testing is consuming an ever-growing proportion of education budgets nationwide. The total price tag may be nearly $2 billion.[1] Texas alone spent, last year, $90 million on standardized testing.[2] These tests are not a one-hour or one-day affair, but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time.[3] In Chicago, some students must complete 13 standardized tests each year.[4]

Striking Chicago teachers protest the dominance of testing over their profession
Striking Chicago teachers protest the dominance of testing over their profession (Chicago Teacher Solidarity Campaign)

Testing hurts students
In the name of "raising standards," the growth of high-stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them. As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies and physical education, and more time on tested subjects. The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested.[5] With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform "miracles" in the process.[6] Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.

Research does not support using tests to evaluate teachers
As a means of assessing student learning, standardized tests are limited. No student's intellectual process can be reduced to a single number. As a means of assessing teachers, these results are even more problematic. Research suggests that much of the variability in standardized test results is attributable to factors other than the teacher.[7] So-called "value-added" models for teacher evaluation have a large margin of error, and are not reliable measures of teacher performance.[8]

What you can do

To add your signature to this statement, send an email with your name and affiliation(s) to: [email protected].

Educators are taking a stand for authentic teaching and learning
In a nearly unanimous vote, the staff at Garfield High school in Seattle decided to refuse to administer the district's Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Research has shown that this test has no significant impact on reading scores.[9] While serving other low-stakes district purposes in the Seattle Public Schools, it is only used as a high-stakes measure for teachers, even though the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations. In taking this action, the educators at Garfield High School have struck a blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and deserve support. We, the undersigned,[10] stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex.

Jean Anyon, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Wayne Au, University of Washington, Bothell, Rethinking Schools
Bill Ayers, University of Illinois, Chicago
Jeff Bale, Michigan State University
Kenneth Bernstein, Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School
Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools
Steve Brier, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Anthony Brown, University of Texas, Austin
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Lesley University
Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linda Christensen, Rethinking Schools
Anthony Cody, Education Week Teacher Magazine
Antonia Darder, Loyola Marymount University
Noah DeLissovoy, University of Texas, Austin
Michelle Fine, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Nancy Flanagan, Education Week Teacher Magazine
Ofelia Garcia, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Alice Ginsburg, Author
Gene Glass, University of Colorado, Boulder
Paul Gorski, George Mason University
Rico Gutstein, University of Illinois, Chicago
Helen Gym, Asian American United, Rethinking Schools
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
Brian Jones, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Stan Karp, Rethinking Schools
Jonathan Kozol, Author
Kevin Kumashiro, University of Illinois, Chicago, National Association for Multicultural Education
Zeus Leonardo, California State University, Long Beach
Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union
Pauline Lipman, University of Illinois, Chicago
Barbara Madeloni, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Nicholas Michelli, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado, Boulder, National Education Policy Center, National Association for Multicultural Education
Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Pedro Noguera, New York University
Edward Olivos, University of Oregon
Celia Oyler, Teachers College, Columbia University
Thomas Pedroni, Wayne State University
Emery Petchauer, Oakland University
Bob Peterson, Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, Rethinking Schools
Anthony Picciano, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Bree Picower, Montclair State University
Thomas S. Poetter
, Miami University
Diane Ravitch, New York University
Kristen A. Renn, Michigan State University, Rethinking Schools
John Rogers, University of California, Los Angeles
Kenneth J. Saltman, DePaul University, Chicago
Nancy Schniedewind, State University of New York, New Paltz
Ira Shor, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Timothy D. Slekar, Penn State University, Altoona
Christine Sleeter, California State University, Monterey Bay
Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools
Joel Spring, Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York
David Stovall, University of Illinois, Chicago
Katy Swalwell, George Mason University
Melissa Bollow Tempel, Milwaukee Public Schools, Rethinking Schools
Paul Thomas, Furman University
Wayne Urban, University of Alabama
Angela Valenzuela, University of Texas, Austin
Stephanie Walters, Rethinking Schools
Kathleen Weiler, Tufts University
Lois Weiner, New Jersey City University
Kevin Welner, University of Colorado, Boulder, National Education Policy Center
Kathy Xiong, Milwaukee Public Schools, Rethinking Schools
Yong Zhao, Author and Scholar

1. Chingos, M. M. (2012). Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems. Brookings Institution.
2. Cargile, E. (May 3, 2012). "Tests' price tag $90 million this year". Kxan Investigates, (NBC).
3. Dawer, D. (December 29, 2012) "Standardized Testing is Completely Out of Control".
4. Vevea, B. (November 26, 2012) "More standardized tests, more Chicago parents looking for ways out".
5. Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.
6. Pell, M.B. (September 30, 2012). "More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can't ensure test integrity". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
7. Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., ... & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. See also: DiCarlo, M. (July 14, 2010). "Teachers Matter, But So Do Words". Shanker Blog, The Voice of the Albert Shanker Institute.
8. Schafer, W. D., Lissitz, R. W., Zhu, X., Zhang, Y., Hou, X., & Li, Y. Evaluating Teachers and Schools Using Student Growth Models. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 17(17), 2.
9. Cordray, D., Pion, G., Brandt, C., Molefe, A., & Toby, M. (2012). The Impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Program on Student Reading Achievement. Final Report. NCEE 2013-4000. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
10. All signatures represent individual opinions, not institutional endorsements, unless specified. To add your signature to this statement, send an e-mail with your name and affiliation(s) to: [email protected].

Further Reading

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