When I attended our Teacher Institute Day at Maui High last year I was not sure what to expect. Required to attend, I among almost all Maui Department Of Education school teachers were there to find out how Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) can support, recognize and essentially inform us of our rights, and honor us for our service. There were many speakers and vendors, offering services and support specifically for teachers.
We were all filed into the Maui High Gym with one side of the bleachers set up for us to sit and listen to lecturers, all of which had a significant role in the Public school sector in Hawaii and else where. Most of the speakers where regrettably forgettable until the last speaker stepped up. His speech was revolutionary and he was able to really shift and energize the attention of the teachers listening. He had come to Maui to talk about Standardized testing and what he was able to achieve in his school district.
He was from the Seattle district and was the Garfield High School social studies teacher. His talk related to how his school boycotted the standardized test, which are mandated by all states in our country. (No Child Left Behind requires all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students).
His speech commenced with the explanation that a few teachers at his school felt the tests were irrelevant in showing true growth among their students, as well as creating unnecessary stress on teachers and students alike to perform sometimes 3 times a year. A test that requires students to fill in the blanks and show very little in the way of actual knowledge of research, problem solving, or development of real life applications. The decision to boycott was decided despite the risk of a 10 day suspension without pay and possible termination. They first got the support of the parents. Nearly all the school’s parents signed an ‘Opt-Out’ form allowing their children to not test. The news spread and more schools (teachers and parents) that opposed the Standardized Testing began to boycott as well. In the end only a small part of the student body were required to test (those students who did not have a signed opt-out forms). Yet even these students managed to find a way to invalidate the test by pressing the same key over and over until the end of the exam.
This move by the Garfield High School staff was considered a modern day Civil Rights Movement and message that standardized testing in the USA needs to be closely evaluated and re-structured. If the goal is to get an honest assessment of what our students know and learn everyday the current system unfortunately does not reflect this.
The story was inspiring and moving and our Maui teachers honored him with a standing ovation by EVERY teacher in the gym. Personally, I cried and felt hope for the future that our voices matter. Sometimes it only takes one to influence change among many. Research Standardized Testing, talk to your child’s school and maybe we can begin to stand up to a very big problem with the education system in the USA today!!!