What if they gave the SBAC and no one took it? Ask the folks at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle


It has been confirmed that 100% of the 11th grade students at Nathan Hale High School opted out of the SBAC test this week.

Here is the history in a nutshell. There were informational meetings about the Common Core Standards and the SBAC early in the school year and Wayne Au, PhD was invited to speak on high stakes testing.

There was much discussion and then a resolution was passed by the teachers at Nathan Hale High School:

As I wrote in a previous post:

Nathan Hale High School in Seattle says “No!” to the Common Core Standards SBAC test

The Common Core Standards associated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam, the SBAC, will be implemented in March in the Seattle school district but this afternoon the Nathan Hale High School Senate, which functions as the Building Leadership Team typically made up of teachers, parents, staff and students, voted nearly unanimously not to administer the SBAC tests to 11th graders this year.

The Senate also recently voted not to administer the PSAT test to 10th graders at all in the future.

The reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included:

1. The SBAC is not required for graduation

2. Colleges will not use the SBAC this year

3. Since NCLB requires all students to pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that, all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.

4. It is neither a valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide our next instructional steps.

5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.

6. Students made the point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”

7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.

8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.

As a representative of Nathan Hale stated:

This is an important step. Nathan Hale High School is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.


Then a nastygram was sent out by Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Nyland threatening teachers with a loss of their teaching licenses if they refused to give the test. See Superintendent Nyland, threatening teachers isn’t a growth mindset.

Well, that backfired. The students and parents then decided to opt out of the SBAC completely.

Kudos to the Nathan Hale community.

Submitted by Dora Taylor


  1. High stakes tests only measure the lowest form of learning which rote memorization. Higher level thinking skills can’t be measured with a standardized test. I can remember “cramming” for exams, and then as I left, it was all gone. All of it. What stuck in my head were the projects, books I read, papers I wrote, and presentations I completed. I still have and use some of that information in my current work field. Kids should be collaborating, creating, developing, analyzing, applying, evaluating. Our most creative learners (dyslexic and ESE like my child) are being locked out of an education because of these tests. They are made to feel like failures and worthless. Testing companies make multiple choice tests that they try to trick up a bit with some fancy wording that only serves to make kids with language based disabilities fail every time (dyslexics, processing disorders, children from non-English speaking homes). Giving a kid with these problems an IEP with more time just serves them with a “longer jail sentence.” They sit and read and reread the trickery not understanding the intended question. FAIL. Our gifted children (my other child) are being forced to bubble their way through a system that cheats them from learning in a way that is meaningful. All the while, we fight about tests, data, and rigor. I am sick of classroom time being wasted with constant test prep and constant testing. My kids are losing the love of learning.

    1. There is a difference between standardized testing and high stakes testing which the SBAC has become.

      Back in the day, I took only two standardized tests, the IQ test in kindergarten, yes, I am that old, which determined what level class I would be in through high school and the SAT. Later I took the GRE for graduate school.

      There were no tests to decide whether I should move on to 4th grade, if I was “kindergarten ready” or “college and career ready”, whether I should be in what is now called an AP class or whether I should graduate from high schools.

      That was determined by professional and qualified teachers and I did quite well beyond high school as most did in my generation.

      Since then, more and more standardized testing has been implemented with no satisfactory results in terms of student improvement.

      The testing has become a billion dollar business and corporations like Pearson want to get as much of the action as possible. They have become so much a part of the political system with their lobbying and political donations that policy is now written where the tests are required for just about everything imaginable.

      High stakes testing determines funding of schools or lack of funding, it can determine whether a student graduates from high school even though the student is found proficient in their subjects, it can be a part of a teacher’s evaluation, whether a school is “failing” whether a school closes (and is converted into a charter school), it determines how a community functions (if a school is closed it affects a community) and how a child feels under all of that pressure.

      So, standardized tests are OK for very specific purposes but not at the frequency we are experiencing now and not with high stakes attached to them.

      For more information on testing see:
      Part 1: High stakes testing: A little history, https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/high-stakes-testing-and-what-that-means-in-seattle/.


  2. Good for them! We waste too much instructional time prepping for and administering tests that stress our students and don’t have any educational value.

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