What started as one school's protest against the MAP test has quickly ignited a storm. First other schools in Seattle started weighing in, then the NAACP and now, in the most striking demonstration of how the issue has touched a nerve, teachers, parents and students across the country.
In Berkeley, the teachers union is holding a rally, while the Los Angeles' teachers union is urging its members to wear red in solidarity. There's leafleting going on in Rochester, New York, and an "opt-out" press conference planned by student unions in Portland. In Chicago and Denton, Texas, petition drives are underway.
And that's apart from more informal expressions of support. Day after day, according to Hagopian, Garfiled teachers have been called to the office to receive gifts from supporters: pizza from a school in Florida, two dozen roses from one on the East Coast, chocolates from a local district. Today, Hagopian says, someone sent foot-long subs.
"It's crazy," Hagopian says. "This has become a national movement." What's more, he predicts: "I think we're just seeing the very beginning of something."
Why? Let's remember that the MAP test is given not just to Seattle students, but to millions of kids across the country. So there's a lot of people who are exasperated with the tests, which aren't aligned to local curricula, meaning that students are evaluated with material that isn't necessarily taught in class. The MAP test is also quirky. If students miss one question on the online test, they're automatically downgraded to lower-level questions, even though it may be just that one question or subject area that gives them problems.
But it's not just this one test that people are tired of. It's the overload of testing in general. Hagopian cites one letter he received from a teacher on an Idaho Native American reservation, who said she was obliged to give 14 tests throughout the year. Chicago teachers give 13 annual tests to some students, according to a letter of support signed by 60 prominent educations across the country, including author Jonathan Kozol. "These tests are not a one-hour or one-day affair," the letter continues, "but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time."
As the letter points out, they also swallow billions of dollars a year to implement, and have led to a narrowing of curricula as the focus of classrooms have become teaching to the test.
But the controversy is not just about kids. As part of the reform movement that is sweeping the country, including in Washington state, teachers are increasingly evaluated according to their students' scores. Many teachers bitterly object, and that's the spark that really lit a fire under teachers in the last couple of years.
This could be a critical moment in eduction, with the reform movement facing a serious challenge. It wouldn't be surprising if U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, part of the reform camp, felt the need to respond.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn hasn't yet expressed his view of the MAP boycotts, but he has indicated that he's sympathetic to over-testing laments. In December, he expressed his view on the exit exams high school graduates have to pass in order to graduate, which numbered two as of last year but will soon be as many as five. "Testing is important," Dorn allowed before going on to say that we have too many tests that are costing too much money. For these tests at least, he's asking the Legislature to reduce the number.
*See Also: NAACP Enters the MAP Fight