'Out of a possible 810 students, the administration of Seattle's Garfield High School was able to test only 118...' Teachers and students who boycott tests speak of their experiences at CTU 'More Than a Score' forum

CTU President Kaaren Lewis, Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian, and several other speakers “enlightened, inspired, and energized” participants at a special community forum on standardized testing, said one teacher who spoke at the end of the meeting at Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church on March 19. Jesse Hagopian (left) and Tracy Barrientos speak before the forum. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Approximately 100 people attended the event, sponsored by More Than A Score a coalition of the CTU, Parents 4 Teachers, Raise Your Hand, and PURE. CTU Testing Committee co-chair Tracy Barirentos moderated the meeting, noting in her opening remarks that public education is in “crisis mode” because of excessive testing, which CPS is increasing in grades K-2.

CTU President Karen Lewis hold baby Malcolm, son of Anne Carlson, a co-chair of the CTU Testing Committee before the meeting.The forum highlighted large groups of students and teachers who stood together to boycott tests, resulting in national attention and wide-spread support. Other speakers and forum attendees explained how individual students can also be protected from unnecessary tests when their parents opt them out of district tests.

Gage Park High School senior Leslie Leon spoke of a recent student boycott of the NAEP test at the school. Education Week published her account on March 7 blog post.

Gage Park senior Leslie Leon said dozens of students at Gage who are sick of being defined by their test scores refused to take the NAEP. Leslie said Gage Park students felt unsafe due to two recent sexual assaults and discouraged by the demise of after school programs and sports. She said that students felt that the administration “cares more about tests than our safety” and that “our programs are not a priority.”

“We’re being defined by our standardized tests; that’s not who we are,” Leslie said. When students were told to take another standardized test— the NAEP — the students refused. Leslie said that dozens of students who were pulled out of class to take the test refused, even when bribed with promises of Subway sandwiches and threatened with the loss of their prom.

“The tests don’t help us,” she said. “We need to be safe, to have stuff to look forward to. We will be trying to get the word out, to have our voices heard the we’re not just a test score.”

Following the boycott, students spoke at an LSC meeting at the school. In addition, she said that she and other Chicago students will meet with students in New Orleans and Los Angeles later this year.

Lincoln Park High School graduate Malcolm London performed his piece High School Training Ground. He said a new group for students against high stakes standardized testing will meet on Sat. March 30 at 3 p.m. at Young Chicago Authors, 1180 N. Milwaukee.
For info: or

Students for Organizing,
Not Students being
Organized by Standardized Tests

• Join other students to understand the role high stakes testing is playing in undermining great teaching and learning in OUR schools. Test scores are a key in school rankings and closings, student tracking, teacher evaluations and all too often give a limited view of OUR classrooms. Tests unfairly discriminate against schools with low income students, students of color and students with disabilities.

•We will discuss the many options for high school students becoming involved in our growing movement in OUR schools.
Lincoln Park High School graduate and spoken word artist Malcolm London performed his piece “High School Training Ground," which can be viewed on You Tube. He said that Young Chicago Authors would begin organizing around the issue of standardized testing and were planning to meet on March 30.

Hagopian, a union delegate at Garfield High School in Seattle, spoke about the teacher boycott of the computerized NWEA MAP test, in which the entire Garfield faculty refused to administer the tests in January.

District administrators attempted to test students, but parents and students stood in solidarity with the teachers, choosing to opt out. Out of a possible 810 students, the administration tested only 118.

Hagopian said many schools have been boycotting tests for a long time. These schools include the Chicago Lab School.Following Garfield’s lead, five other schools in the district joined the boycott. The district threatened teachers with 10 day unpaid suspensions, however at this time no one has been disciplined. The next scheduled administration of the test is in April, however the faculties of the five Seattle schools remain committed against it.

Hagopian spoke about the eugenics movement that developed standardized tests to show the superiority of whites. The tests don’t show learning, he said, they show “access to resources.” He said that U.S. Education Secretary and proponent of test-based school reform Arne Duncan says “education is the civil rights issue of our generation.” Hagopian noted that maybe Duncan is right, but not in the way Duncan suggests, and that boycotts were a major part of the civil rights movement.

Karen Lewis suggested Michelle Rhee wouldn't be able to speak at the forum with all the Bibles in the church.Karen Lewis said standardized tests are designed to rank and sort, contributing to racial discrimination. “The playbook” used by urban district mayors and privatizers like the Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations, Lewis said, calls for closing low performing schools.

“We need to take back our schools from people who don’t send their children to public schools but will close them down and tell you it’s good for you,” Lewis said.

“For Lewis and education advocates in attendance, testing has become part of the war on public education — a war that has now reached a crisis point," the CTU March 20 blog report on the event states. "As CPS has increased the number of tests its students are subjected to staring in kindergarten, injustice grows through a mult-million dollar industry that infiltrates the district with evaluations that are unfair, biased and that consume significant classroom time despite being of little value in the actual education of children.”

Skinner elementary eighth-grader Daisy Maass said opting out of the MAP was a relief.Participants of the forum questioned the speakers and spoke of their own experiences. Skinner 8th-grader Daisy Maass said she just opted out of the MAP and was relieved not to take the test.

“The MAP makes you feel awful,” she said. “Each question gets harder. It’s stressful.”

Daisy said that, like many other CPS students who opt out of tests, she enjoyed reading a book instead of taking the test. More Than a Score representatives Tracy Barriento and Julie Fain,advised parents to opt out their children.

“Data makes the system run; don’t give them data,” a participant of the forum said. A teacher who said she was “enlightened, inspired, and energized” asked what she could do.

“Spread the word,” Barrientos said. “Question what your school is doing, join the testing committee, opt out your children, advise other parents to opt out, and join the rally on March 27 at Daley Plaza.” 


March 25, 2013 at 10:43 AM

By: Jean R Schwab


Are the students who opt out given a 0 or are they listed as not taking the test?

March 25, 2013 at 12:44 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Opt out

Sam 11 and Josh Schmidt 8 opt out regularly. No zeros. Just no score--on MAP RRACH ISAT etc.

March 29, 2013 at 10:22 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Garfield HS teachers update

Victory for the Garfield teachers and other MAP boycotting schools in in Seattle!!

Posted on March 29, 2013

No teacher will be disciplined!

Superintendent Banda promised that teachers who boycotted the MAP test would be disciplined, but because of the overwhelming solidarity from around the nation, he was forced to back down. In his letter he tries to save face by saying that no test coordinators or teachers in tested subjects boycotted the test–which is just completely false, as just about every teacher at Garfield signed their name to the statement that saying they boycotted the test. I’m not sure how he could even suggest that!

Thanks to everyone who passed a resolution, demonstrated, raised money, emailed or called our Superintendent!

The below e-mail was sent to every educator in Seattle….


From: Banda, Jose L

Sent: Friday, March 29, 2013 10:14 AM

Subject: MAP assessment update

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

Our community has engaged in a deep discussion during the last two months about the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, which provides data used for screening and analyzing student achievement and measuring growth over time.

While we know the MAP assessment has its strengths and limitations, it’s important for educators to use a variety of data sources to help inform classroom instruction. For many of our teachers and principals, the MAP assessment provides critical information to help screen our academically at-risk students so we can identify additional supports and provide more personalized attention, as well as measure their academic growth and improvement over time.

The latest testing period wrapped up on Feb. 28, and I wanted to share details of this assessment, as well as provide an update on future testing.

First of all, I want to thank our staff and schools for their ongoing work in administering assessments. I am pleased to report that every school administered the MAP assessment and met the testing deadline. There will be no discipline of any test administrator. Those teachers who publically said they refused to administer the test either did not teach a tested subject, or they were not a test administrator. However, I want to reiterate my hope that in the future we seek to address our concerns and issues in a more constructive manner, in a way that puts our students first.

Overall, nearly 30,000 students in the required grade levels (1st to 9th) completed the MAP assessment during the winter period. We did see a higher than usual number of high school students and families who opted out of taking the test. Districtwide, a total of 459 parents and 133 students opted-out. Of these opt-outs, 265 parents (58% of total) were from two district high schools (Garfield and Ingraham), and 129 students (97% of total) were from one high school (Garfield), A detailed accounting of winter MAP participation can be found here:

I want to thank the members of the Task Force on Assessment and Measuring Progress. This group of principal, teacher, student, family and community representatives has met four times since February and is charged with reviewing District assessment programs, including MAP, and making recommendations for next year and beyond. You can review the meeting minutes and agendas, as well as the names of task force members, here.

The task force is expected to make a recommendation to me in May regarding assessments for the 2013-14 school year.

In the meantime, our spring assessments will be held from April 22 – June 7. Beginning this spring, the District recommends that students enrolled in an Algebra 1 course take the NWEA Algebra End-of-Course (EOC) exam instead of Math 6+ test.

Based on a preliminary review of MAP by staff, we’ve made the following adjustment to our testing policy: For 9th grade, only students below standard based on the state reading assessment will be required to take the MAP reading test. It will be optional for 9th graders who are at or above standard in reading.

Again, I want to thank the teachers and community members for the ongoing dialogue about assessments, and I appreciate the Task Force’s commitment. I am pleased that we have been able to use this issue as an opportunity for us to all work together on a solution that best benefits our students.


José Banda


Seattle Public Schools

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 3 =