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Standardized test backlash: Some Seattle teachers just say 'no'

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Garfield’s civil yet disobedient faculty appears to be the first group of teachers nationally to defy district edicts concerning a standardized test, but the backlash against high-stakes testing has been percolating in other parts of the country.

  • The New York State Principals association recently issued a scathing letter, nearly four pages of “unintended negative consequences” it claims such tests foment.
  • In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr has called for a three-year moratorium on standardized testing.
  • In north Texas last year, superintendents of several high-performing school districts signed a letter to state officials and lawmakers saying high-stakes standardized testing is “strangling our public schools.” As of Jan. 8, 880 districts that educate more than 4.4 million Texas students have adopted a resolution opposing these tests. 

“This high-stakes testing – there needs to be a moratorium on it, because it’s out of control,” says Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, N.Y. “None of these tests really have anything to do with curriculum. Maybe they have a little bit to do with math. But that’s it.”

Dr. Burris co-authored the letter for the New York State principals. On Dec. 31, she started a petition in New York opposing high-stakes testing. In 10 days, she says, 5,500 administrators, teachers, and parents have signed it.

“Parents are stressed. Teachers are stressed. Kids are stressed by these tests more than parents,” Burris says. “And when you tie teachers’ evaluations to these tests, the teachers end up focusing their lessons on the tests. And that’s starting to destroy elementary education.”

At Montgomery County Public Schools, America’s 17th largest district, Dr. Starr says the conflicting demands of the No Child Left Behind Act and the emerging Common Core State Standards Initiative (sanctioned by 46 states and the District of Columbia) are overwhelming districts, teachers, and resources.

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