by Dennis Van Roekel, teacher and NEA President
In 1946 more than 1,100 St. Paul teachers staged a five-week walkout for better pay and working conditions. It was the nation’s first teacher strike. Over the next six decades, the sight of striking teachers walking a picket line became the indelible image symbolizing teacher might. Now a new face of teacher militancy is emerging.
In Seattle, a small but passionate group of educators is using the art of disruption 2.0 to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo. Over a month ago, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School took a courageous step to stand up for their students by refusing to administer the flawed and irrelevant Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. While the Garfield staff doesn’t object to the mandated state test, they oppose the district-wide MAP for solid reasons. Aside from being poorly designed, MAP doesn’t line up with state standards or district curriculum; it doesn’t measure what students are actually learning in their classes; it’s not an appropriate tool for assessing students or their teachers; and it wastes valuable class time.
I visited the Seattle Education Association in December and was impressed by the dedication and professionalism of the teachers I met. In staging the MAP test boycott, they are saying, “Enough is enough.” And on Wednesday, Feb. 6, educators, parents and communities are urged to join them.
NEA’s Seattle affiliate is staging a “national day of action” — encouraging colleagues across the country to hold meetings, organize rallies and wear red — to highlight the rising tide of discontent with the testing regime. All part of a growing movement and chorus of voices protesting high-stakes standardized testing.