Standardized Testing in Our Public Schools: A Discussion

Test Multiple Choice

To Test or Not to Test:
Standardized Testing in Our Public Schools

Tuesday evening, September 17 at 7:30 PM
Town Hall in Seattle, the Great Hall
7:30 p.m.

In the wake of last spring’s successful boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress test (MAP), by Seattle public school teachers and now with school districts throughout the region continuing to insist that teacher evaluations be partially tied to student test scores, the Seattle Town Hall presents a public forum on the topic.

Join the discussion with four panelists representing a spectrum of opinions who will make arguments for or against standardized testing.

Find out the origin of standardized tests and where they might be headed. Who supports them and why. Why are parents, teachers and students opposed to these bubble tests? What do these “instruments” accurately measure? How do our children benefit from these evaluations? How do education “reformers” use standardized test results to replace public schools with charter schools? And could this happen here?

During this last school year, teachers from Seattle’s Garfield High School stood up to district managers, without a single dissent among its faculty, and refused to give their students the MAP test. Their boycott spread first to other schools in Seattle, and then quickly inspired teachers, parents and students across the country, and eventually across the globe, to take creative stands against the onslaught of standardized tests.

Nevertheless, the advocates of school “reform” continue to lobby for more high stakes testing. Washington State spends more on standardized tests than any other state: $100 million annually. It seems clear the two sides are on a collision course. And the first of these face-to-face run-ins will be at Town Hall.

The panelists include:

• Wayne Au, associate professor of education from the University of Washington and an editor of Rethinking Schools, a social-justice magazine and publisher steadfastly opposed to standardized testing, as well as to the current education “reform” movement that promotes such tests. Wayne is a leading expert on the subject of standardized testing and is the author of Unequal By Design: The Standardization of Inequality, Pencils Down: Rethinking High Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools.

• Chris Eide, is a Teach for America, Inc. alum who taught in the Seattle Public School system for a year before deciding to become an education “activist” by establishing Teachers United. This organization receives generous funding from the Gates Foundation.

Teachers United supported the Charter School Initiative 1040 and teachers being evaluated by student test scores. As I stated in a previous post, “The first words out of his (Eide) mouth are “seniority” and “last in, first out” which is the argument used to justify breaking up unions, specifically teachers’ unions.

• Jason Mendenhall, currently works for the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that designs and sells the MAP Test. During his tenure at NWEA, Jason has been Director of Supplemental Educational Programs, Director of Product Strategy, and Director of Strategic Implementation. Jason has eight years’ experience as a secondary and post-secondary educator.

Sandra Brettler, an award-winning, National Board-Certified teacher at Thornton Creek Elementary in northeast Seattle. She earned a Ph.D in neuroscience with a focus on understanding how the brain integrates information and encodes learning. Sandra boycotted the Map-test last year with her colleagues at Thornton Creek.  As an elementary school teacher, she will be asked by Seattle Public Schools to administer the exam to her students this year. (Only high-school students were exempted from giving the MAP test by the district, in response to the teacher-led boycott.)

• Dean Paton, Seattle correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and a longtime education reporter, is host and moderator. As a young reporter, he also worked as the Associated Press boxing writer in Seattle, which may come in handy at this event.
Please forward this announcement to your friends, and then join us for this urgent public debate. Notch your calendar now.

Tickets are $5 at the door or $6.16 online, in advance, at the Town Hall website.

The Seattle Town Hall address is:
1119 8th Avenue at Seneca Street, Seattle, 98101.
Enter on 8th Avenue
Metro’s Number 2 bus serves the hall directly.
Telephone 206-652-4255.

Dora Taylor


  1. Here’s my biggest issue with this forum: The name of this event sets up a false dichotomy from the outset.

    This issue has never really been, “Testing Versus No Testing”—although that’s the way testing proponents have tried to frame it.

    Teachers—even those who took part in the boycott of the MAP tests early this year—have made it clear, again and again, that they’re not against any and all tests to determine student abilities and academic progress.

    What they are against is pointless, high-stakes, standardized testing, being forced upon our students and teachers, several times a year. These tests are often unrelated to what our students have been learning, create an atmosphere of fear, panic, hostility and suspicion in the school community, and are obscenely expensive, both in terms of dollars and hours expended. (Roughly 5 full weeks per year is spent in Seattle elementary schools, “cramming” for these exams, followed by the actual taking of the tests and the “post-analysis” between teacher, administrator and parent.

    Teachers have made it clear that they would support a smaller number of tests, with minimal classroom “prep time” being expended beforehand, using exams that have been developed with teacher input and support; exams that will take a minimum of time from actual LEARNING, and result in both a significantly lower price tag and a set of results that are related to what was previously taught and a much better predictor of academic ability.

    So, this bull needs to be taken by the horns at the outset: Proponents, especially those making money off of these tests, would love to frame this as “Tests versus No Tests”, although that isn’t the actual position of any opponents.

    Don’t let them—through the very title of this forum—deceive the audience. The question isn’t “Test or No Test”: it never has been. lt is, instead, a question of how well-designed and reliable the test, how cost-effective, and how accurate the results.

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