Will the standardized testing boycott spread to Chicago?

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CTU president Karen Lewis, addressing the City Club in November
On January 10, teachers at a Seattle high school announced that they would refuse to administer a standardized test they're required to give to ninth graders.

"We are not troublemakers nor do we want to impede the high functioning of our school," the teachers at Garfield High School wrote in a letter. But they said they wouldn't "continue to participate in a practice that harms our school and our students."

The teachers questioned the validity of the test, Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). They also said MAP "subtracts many hours of class time from students' schedules each year," and clogs the school's computer labs for weeks, making them unavailable for other educational purposes. "This especially hurts students without computers at home," the teachers wrote.

Seattle school superintendent Jose Banda has told teachers that if they don't give students the test by February 22, they could be suspended for ten days.

Two other Seattle schools have joined the boycott, and other teachers' groups across the nation have voiced their support. National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel lauded the "heroic stand" of the Garfield teachers, and called this a "defining moment" in education.

The boycott "could spill out to other cities as a decade of frustration over testing simmers," Greg Toppo, the national education writer for USA Today, observed this morning.

Will it spill into Chicago? That seems likely. On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union announced it had "launched a campaign in support of local and nationwide efforts" to eliminate tests such as MAP, which are not mandated by the state.

"I think it's important for us to go on record about this because we are likely to start seeing a more active anti-testing movement in Chicago," CTU president Karen Lewis said on the union's blog.

The CTU didn't explain what its "campaign" will consist of. Ronnie Reese, member communications coordinator for the union, told me this morning that teachers at some Chicago schools were passing petitions about standardized tests. He said he didn't know whether the petitions called for test boycotts, or how many schools were involved. The union will identify the schools and provide more information about the petitions next week, he told me.

Gregory Michie, who teaches at a south-side elementary school, slammed the MAP test recently on Huffington Post's Education blog. Michie, who won a Golden Apple in 1996, spent most of the 2000s teaching teachers at Illinois State and Concordia universities. When he returned to the classroom this fall, he discovered that standardized testing was "as bad as I thought—and worse," he wrote in his essay.

The MAP test takes three and a half weeks to administer to all the students in his school who are required to take it, Michie said. It's given three times a year, and the school has only one computer lab, which means that for ten weeks a year, the lab is available only for MAP testing.

Because the test is Web-based, its citywide administration hogs a lot of bandwidth, Michie went on. So CPS officials have instructed teachers not to use the Web during the weeks the tests are conducted. "How's that for 21st century learning?" he asked in his post.

The testing also disrupts the class rotation, Michie wrote: "Last week, students missed class time on four different days so that other classmates could be tested."

And the MAP is only one test. He said eighth graders at his school also take the ISAT, EXPLORE, NAEP, ACCESS, the REACH Performance Tasks, and the Algebra Exit Exam.

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