Under Pressure

Click here and you will navigate to my weekly Scoop.it gazette on modern learning. Although I try to preserve the best stories of the week for the Sunday night edition to give educators and learners some food for thought on Monday mornings (It’s even the beginning of the semester for my school tomorrow–once more to the breach!), visitors can always find what I am curating these days through the menu link at the top of the blog. Click “Process of Living–Curated” and you will find out if I am keeping up with my homework.

It’s important to use test results, but it’s also important that they not become your oxygen.”

–Pat Hunter, Principal of Maple Elementary, Seattle

This week the topics that struck me as worthy of sharing include the design of a classroomless Swedish school, explanations of Jacob Kounin‘s concept of teacher “withitness” (which I consider the essential classroom management strategy in the hybrid modern learning/traditional classroom environment many of us find ourselves in), some great 21st Century Learning infographics and a great article on “digital hygiene” by Douglas Rushkoff via Edutopia. But the issue that drew my keenest attention is the ongoing stalemate between Garfield High School teachers in Seattle and their superiors. The cause? The Garfield teachers have boycotted the  MAP standardized tests mandated by the state of Washington. Teacher protests of standardized testing are relatively common, what makes this current protest different, however, is the wide-ranging support the teachers have received–including the local PTSA, the Seattle Student Senate and the usual suspects like Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol. This makes the protest precedent setting because it explodes the myth of disunity between parents, teachers, students and education activists and demonstrates that all stakeholders realize that the standardized testing craze, no matter the best of intentions, does not advance student learning.

And the boycott is spreading.

“We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress. We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom. Some of my colleagues would propose replacing the MAP with a test that is aligned to our curriculum.”

In a recent op-ed piece, Jesse Hagopian, the award-winning teacher, graduate of Garfield High and spokesperson for the boycott echoed the sentiment of professional teachers throughout all the parallel educational systems: None of us is against accountability or rigor, we just want assessments that reflect what we teach in the classroom and that mold our students into successful participants in our various communities. Hagopian’s and his peers stance also provides a rebuttal to a meme I encountered at the Innovate 2013 educator’s conference in São Paulo last week. The keynote speakers–largely from the business world–were convinced that only market pressures would lead to education reform. It’s redeeming to see that the common sense of the stakeholders under pressure still provides another source of momentum for transformation and for placing the pressure where it really belongs.

I shared Hagopian’s op-ed with the students in my International Studies course (tellingly, the class in which we focus on human rights…) and two quotes jumped out at them, garnering “likes” on Facebook:

“Our kids will need both traditional academic abilities and innovative critical-thinking skills to solve these real problems. If we inundate our students with standardized testing year-round, these larger lessons are lost.”

“Many others, myself included, believe that portfolios, which collect student work and demonstrate yearlong student growth, would be a good replacement for the MAP. Such assessments would be directly tied to our curriculum and would demonstrate improvement over time rather than a random snapshot of a student on one particular day.”

Our students are aware of what is best for them–and they are willing to buy in to our demands of them when they know their efforts and activities are in sync with preparing them for a future that will have very very little to do with the bulk of the testing to which they are subjected.

It’s a matter for reflection at the beginning of the week, the beginning of the semester or the beginning of the day that marks the start of the rest of your life. If so many of us realize that the iceberg is dead-ahead, that we don’t have enough lifeboats for the crew and the passengers and that the water is a hypothermia bath, why aren’t more of us rushing the wheelhouse to steer in a different direction? Why did we even board? Embark?

Boycott Image Credit: Seattle Education on WordPress

Author: williamjtolley

IB Coordinator, IBEN Workshop Leader, Examiner, and DP/MYP Teacher | Inquiry, Mastery & Culturally Responsive-Learning Advocate

66 thoughts on “Under Pressure”

  1. Our world of education is going through major changes and we need to make sure that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater. It seems that we board the proverbial ship towards the proverbial iceberg because we believe that if we can scrape off of the damage of the iceberg better off then everyone else, we will have a better chance of arriving at our destination.

    Response to Seattle Boycott:

  2. We have to go with the time and make some changes in our world of education.
    MAP tests do not show the academic progress of a student, instead they show if a student can remember all the formulas he or she studied. We are kind of forces to think “in the box”.
    Why? Nowadays, we have so many different ways to see a students academic progress, for example, with ePortfolios.

    My response to the Seattle Boycott:

  3. Maybe not everything is about the grades, but if learning was part of the cycle. The excess of improper tests may discourage students to do their best and work hard; and schools need to properly think and picture themselves into a student’s place. Why is this test helpful? Is it evaluating student’s skills properly? Time passes by too fast and one should not regret a test done even if struggle was part of the experience, since it is and should only be a source of help and improvement.

    Response to Seattle Boycott:

  4. As the world of technology progresses, the world of education seems to be taking an equally corresponding stance. We are now witnessing the use of paper virtually reaching extinction in school districts across the nation as well as introducing online classes and independence of learning: one thing that is not moving in the appropriate direction are MAP standardized tests. Teachers are becoming aware of this issue and are taking a stand for what they believe to be unfair– in a free country, we could expect nothing less.

    My response to the Seattle Boycott:

    1. You have some formatting issues you need to attend to. Sometimes when you copy and paste, things get messy. Try copying the text back into a Word document (and hit “keep text only), or into a blank email, then re-copy and paste. Should get rid of the formatting issues.

  5. It was time that someone challenged the American system of education and its tendency to profit from every situation available. Teachers at Garfield High School are visionaries who have stood up for their rights and what they believe in, influencing hundreds of other schools across the United States, especially schools in Chicago and Washington DC. It is now up to the government to see how standardized testing is out of date, does not properly relate to the curriculum taught in American schools and should be substituted by a test that allow for each students uniqueness and strongest abilities to be emphasized. It is ridiculous that the scores obtained from this test reflect upon a teacher’s image- most students do not tend to take it too seriously.

    Response to Seattle Boycott: http://isabelakaram.blogspot.com.br/2013/02/post-3-about-settles-map-boycott.html

    1. Victor, I have repeatedly mentioned in class the two specific colors you are still using for your blog. It is illegible. Change to a more visible color scheme.

      Individual style has to be limited by actually readability, dude.

  6. As clearly showed by the article and the video, students are not the only one that are not satisfied with the “production system” way of teaching developed during the 20th century that the world still has, which, let’s be honest, worked pretty well until a couple years ago. But that is exactly the point in which teachers want to get by performing acts such as what happened in one of the public schools of Seattle. The world changed, people changed along with it, and with that, education has to change too. It is not about being against testing, which they clearly state they aren’t, as showed on the following quote said by one of the History teachers of the school, “We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress. We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom. Some of my colleagues would propose replacing the MAP with a test that is aligned to our curriculum.”, but being against a system that keeps students from developing independent learning, critical and creative thinking, and a sort of test that does not shows the real development of a student, when one is being tested on random topics, and not necessarily topics included in the school curriculum.


  7. These tests have minimal educational value to the students that take them, making them a mere tool used by schools. The upside of them is that by analyzing the tests, schools can have a simple view on what aspects they should improve in their curriculums. Of course, there is a downside to that, since many students that take these tests aren’t always taking them seriously.


    1. Why didn’t you embed the video into your post? Readers are lazy my friend–asking for that extra “click” is often asking too much. 🙂

  8. Standarized testing does not truly show a student’s full potential; there are many factors that make these kind of tests unaccurate. Having the possibility to demonstrate your full potential through the use of an academic portfolio would be best for the student. Garfield teachers have said that standardized testing is not making the student academically progress.

    Response to Seattle Boycott Article:

  9. Standardized test just pressure kids to learn and to memorize almost everything out of the SAT tests. As well as if students get too much pressure they might crack and not do well in really important test. My opinion is that if we do have standardized test, it should follow the school’s curriculum.

  10. Becoming modern. Education is changing since, forever. Schools without classrooms is something completely different, in Sweden the school system is being changed to have schools without classrooms, really cool. Now, at our school we take the MAP Tests, some people answer the test by pressing random buttons, and getting the rest of the class free. What a waste of time. Definitely we should stop it, and I am not the only one thinking that. A boycott is RISING, just for the Standardized Tests to stop.

    My Response to The Seattle Boycott:

  11. In my view, Garfield teachers are doing the right thing in asking for changes in the evaluation of their students. MAP tests emerged in a very different context in terms of education, and, since that time, things have changed significantly. The educational system did not follow those changes. The focus was always on making good workers and teaching then about how to survive in the industrialized world.

  12. In my opinion, I do not have a problem with what Garfield teachers are doing, but I realize that there can be much better ways to test students, such as a portfolio or test that has been shaped by studies made throughout the grade.

    More on my opinion:

  13. Every year we are going through a change in the ways we use technology and how our education evolves. Standardized tests don’t go through that change and has limited our ability to learn the way we are supposed to. They don’t allow students to improve as they should. That is what this post is about. A boycott against standardized tests.

    My Response to the Seattle Boycott:

    1. It’s a great post, Giovanna. Your argument and your choice of videos are excellent. But try to avoid pasting a URL in the middle of your text. Either embed the video or highlight one word and insert the hyperlink–like I did here. (See what I did there?)

  14. Standardized tests are clearly flawed representations of students’ progress, for it does not clearly portray that he or she has fully understood and interpreted the content that is actually being taught in the classroom. The conflict with standardized tests has been occurring for years, but it has just recently been acted upon by Garfield High School teachers, who have received great support from parents and students.

    My response to the Seattle Boycott:

  15. Currently, when hearing about standard tests, I can only think about how frustrating it is that people believe one test can actually reflect our total understanding. When will our efforts and accomplishments be considered good enough to represent our knowledge? I believe that tests based around standards should not be considered a legitimate form of testing a student in what she knows, and instead modifications should be taken into consideration. What the teachers from Garfield High School are doing is necessary, and other schools should join, since matters will only be resolved if people see that there is a problem to be fixed.


  16. Standardized MAP test has become overpass. It does not measure anything but the student’s capacity of memorization. I completely agree with this movement to bring a better form of assessment. Time to change.

    My Response to the Seattle Boycott:

  17. In today’s society teachers are starting to change and have different and more effective ideas since there are better ways of testing their efficiency then by only making their students take standardized tests such as MAP. A recent action started by Garfield teachers in Seattle clearly was a spark for other teachers who did not support being accessed by tests which really do not show the big picture of what is happening in the class rooms.

    Response do the article: http://tomassielaff.blogspot.com.br/

  18. Although I am aware of the necessity of testing students, I believe MAP tests are perhaps one of the greatest examples of money wasting I have ever seen. They are simply completely useless. I recall that last time I took them, only seven or eight students actually did their best out of a class of about twenty. Not everyone is willing to spend their time doing a test that has no influence on their lives or grades whatsoever. Why work for 50 minutes on a test when you can click 50 answers in five minutes and do whatever you want for the other 45?


  19. The Standarized tests are something that can be already called useless and obsolete, since students dont even put effort into them. For example, th MAP test, that is taken three times a school year in our school, is never taken seriously. Students take it as free time and never work hard enough to achiebe high scores. We lose precious time in class to improve our grades to stay in a computer lab doing nothing. This is my response to the Seattle Boycott (as the late 2nd chance): http://carlosandradeal.blogspot.com.br/

  20. I cannot agree more on what Jesse said about the MAP tests. He explained he didn’t wanted a standardized test, but a relevant test about what they teach in the classroom. That would actually fit in the context of what the school is currently teaching. Applying this ”customized” test would definitely improve the scores, and they would have a better guidance following where they should put their efforts on.

  21. I completely agree with the article. I hope that the Seattle Boycott can actually change some things in education. I also hope that other people can realize how standardize tesiting it is a waste of time and money.

    1. I completely agree with the article. I hope that the Seattle Boycott can actually change some things in education. I also hope that other people can realize how standardize tesiting it is a waste of time and money.

  22. http://irinaduh.blogspot.com.br/ link to response

    I think there are many types of schools and types of evaluations that you can choose at the moment of choosing one for you, but when you do, you may have to think about the whole school and its environment. If students could help the school to be better and improve its techniques, it would be much easier to choose one.

    My ideal school has no annual tests, because it’s really difficult to remember and study the things you saw ten months ago. Also, my ideal school has little tests and quizzes to remember and study more the subject, and makes we do little projects so we work with the topics seen in class.
    The purpose of education is basically educating people to make them have or find their purpose in their lives. In school, teachers guide students to their destiny. We value our effort and our intention to complete the tasks. 

  23. I do not agree with the testing of MAP, and the new roomless classes, though I am aware of the new technology improvements, and schools new ways of teaching. Even though other do agree, I think that the stundent’s learning will decrease, if these methods are applied.


  24. What I find interesting about the Seattle Boycott is that students and parents support the teachers’ decision. That is a big move toward the reform in education that is definitely needed in today’s world. We are living in a world of information and stimulus, and that causes a major change in the role of the teachers and students in a school. We now have access to research things on our own, with the teacher’s help to push in the right direction and guide us. Many of us are not reaching our full potential, because we are trapped in an educational system that was created long ago and hasn’t adapted to the changes that the world has seen over the years. We are being prepared to live in the “real world” except that such world is not our world. We are being prepared to live in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. Standardized testing is one of these old-fashioned notions that only keep students “in the box” and don’t allow the diversity of thinking and learning that we obviously have. The Seattle MAP test boycott is important because it shows that some people have that notion, and it might point it out to people who don’t.

    My response to the Seattle Boycott:


  25. The Garfield High School students are correct about the Boycott because i think in the 21st century we should be aware that the map tests are not the best way to evaluate the ability of an student in every school, because with so much technology that we have today and many tools we can use for example ePortfolios, that shows all your improvement along your school years and your ideas and conceptions that you have about the entire world, the midia apresentation that could show your compreention about the subject that you are studying and this tools are more interesting than the older way of studying.


  26. Students needs to be tested in same way, the problem is the way we test does students. The thing is that there is a big lobby in the testing business. There are people that had education but never where the very good there where just the 60’s students but when they got to work made a great business or invited great things. That shows that the tests are not for all students but for a stereo type.

  27. This article is really interesting because it is showing a new method of learning. Now a days many students are losing their interested in the subjects and in the school. Most of them are saying that they don’t like to go to school and stay sitting in a chair watching the class. I also don’t like it. So I think that for me will work the Swedish school. At the beginning I thought it wouldn’t work because it will take out of my control, but after I stopped to think carefully about the subject and I liked it. I have to do an online course which I have to do my work in one week. So, I organized myself to do it. I take my time to do the homework and turn in the work in day. It is working for me, and I really like that because I think I’m learning more in the online course than in a regular classroom. But it also has a negative point. In the future people will work with others and because of that kind of method they won’t be able to work well with others. They will start preferring to work alone than with others. They won’t respect others opinion, because they didn’t listen to others and don’t have a personal contact with their online classmates.

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