Standardized Test Boycotts, Protests Gain Momentum Around U.S.

Students, Teachers In Several Cities Protest Standardized Tests

High school students and teachers in cities around the U.S. have decided they hate standardized tests so much, they're just not going to take them, according to news reports.

At Garfield High School -- the Seattle, Wash., alma mater of Jimi Hendrix, rapper Macklemore and Quincy Jones -- teachers voted unanimously to "refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test on ethical and professional grounds." In an op-ed explaining the decision, history teacher Jesse Hagopian made the case that students already face enough standardized tests, and his pupils view the MAP test less seriously because "their scores don't factor into their grades or graduation status."

"We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress," Hagopian wrote. "We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we're teaching in the classroom."

The Times also reports that Garfield teachers had the support of the PTSA, and many parents chose to opt their children out of the tests or keep them home when administrators forced the school to administer the tests.

Meanwhile, high school students in Portland, Ore., launched an opt-out campaign against a series of state-mandated standardized tests called the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, according to U.S. News & World Report.

These students and teachers are adopting a tactic from the National Opt Out Day movement, which started last year when No Child Left Behind turned 10 years old. NCLB mandated standardized testing of students, and has often been criticized for creating a culture of "teaching to the tests."

That was among the reasons cited by Portland Student Union member Alexia Garcia to the Washington Post in describing why they had organized in Portland.

"We see these standardized tests as an inaccurate depiction of student knowledge, they're expensive and take time from real class time," Garcia said, "They do not provide comprehensive feedback to teachers, and scores have an extremely high correlation with class and race."

On the East Coast, a group of 50 high school students staged a "zombie protest" last week in Providence, R.I., to draw attention to "high-stakes testing" that requires students to pass a standardized test in order to graduate. The "zombies" marched to the state Department of Education chanting "no education, no life," according to WPRI.

Parental opposition to standardized testsis also taking hold in Texas, where the Texas Tribune reports that state lawmakers recently began to question publicly the efficacy and accuracy of their state student assessment system, which one state senator deemed a "colossal failure."

Some of the calls to boycott exams claim that the tests make education "about memorization and recall rather than deep learning" -- as Laura Flores Shaw, an advocate of Montessori schools, wrote in a HuffPost blog. Others have complained that these testing regimes are big business.

"When educational policy is just coincidentally falling in line with something that very directly creates large corporate profits, it's time to stop and consider whether maybe the policy is being driven more by profit than by actual results," wrote Laura Clawson, Daily Kos contributing editor.

But skipping the tests could harm students as well. U.S. News & World reports that since Oregon requires students to pass the reading, writing and math portions of the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam, students who boycott the test must find another way to demonstrate proficiency in those subjects.

United Opt Out National is planning a second Occupy the Department of Education event in April of this year.

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