Five 2015 victories that put cracks in the ‘testocracy’


by Guest blogger: Jesse Hagopian

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Never in U.S. history have more students, parents, and teachers engaged in acts of resistance to standardized tests. During the 2015 testing season, over 620,000 public school students around the U.S. refused to take standardized exams, according to a report by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). Advocates for authentic assessments scored these five significant victories in 2015 against the “testocracy” and its test-and-punish model of education:

1) Obama puts testing rhetoric in reverse

President Obama announced in October that “unnecessary testing” is “consuming too much instructional time.” This announcement came as a surprise given Obama’s support for policies like Race to the Top that contributed to the proliferation of high-stakes testing. The reversal of rhetoric was a result of the mass opt-out movement and will surely embolden authentic-assessment activists in the coming year.

2) Seattle strikes a blow against VAMpire evaluations

Seattle educators waged a five-day strike to start the 2015 school year that was able to remove the so-called “student growth rating,” a form of value added modeling (VAM), from the contract. This stunning victory against the testocracy removed all standardized test scores from teacher evaluations.

3) An emergency exit for exit exams

WA educator, writer, and activist Jesse Hagopian

In a repudiation of one of the central components of the testocracy’s agenda, policy makers repealed the California graduation test and relaxed Texas’ graduation testing requirements—joining some six other states that repealed or delayed these exams in the 2013-2014 school year. Arizona, California, Georgia, and South Carolina decided to grant diplomas retroactively to thousands of students denied them because of the exit exams.

4) Na na na na, na na na na, hey AYP, goodbye!

The new federal education law, the Every Students Succeeds Act, certainly doesn’t dethrone the testcoracy—maintaining the destructive requirement for testing in grades 3-8 and again in high school. However, ESSA does deposes one of the cruelest aspects of the test-and-punish policy under NCLB: the so-called “Adequate Yearly Progress” annual test score improvement requirement that labeled nearly every American school failing.

5) Action against the ACT/SAT

2015 was the best on record for the test-optional college admissions movement, with some three dozen more universities and colleges reducing or eliminating ACT or SAT requirements. According to FairTest, there are now more than 850 institutions of higher learning that have dropped this testing requirement.

Jesse Hagopian is a teacher and advisor to the Black Student Union at Seattle’s Garfield High School. Jesse is the editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing and an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. He blogs at:

Reader Comments

  1. Thank you Jesse and the many other educators, students, and parents who have stood up to the abuses of high stakes testing. And now the Washington Ed. Association is advocating the Student Testing Bill of Rights, which will be delivered to the State Board of Education and elected leaders in Olympia. 2016. It is another effort “to finally de-link standardized testing from high school graduation requirements.” Go to this link to sign on t

    Roberta Lindeman

  2. I have been reading your articles, mostly on Diane Ravitch’s blog, for some time. It is imperative that more teachers speak out.

    I am a retired elementary school teacher and feel I can say that teachers just don’t speak out enough. Nurses strike when the patient ratio is not where it should be, but my experience with teachers is they tend to close the door to their room and keep silent.

    This testing frenzy has caused many students and teachers unnecessary strife.

    Thank you for all you do and I hope that teachers will become more vocal and support your cause.

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