As many as150 students at one Seattle high school are refusing to take new Common Core tests mandated in Washington. Some teachers from Garfield High, the site of a 2013 testing boycott, are expected to announce their opposition to the tests Tuesday.
A year ago, roughly 20 sophomores at Seattle’s Garfield High School refused to take the state reading exam and, at most, 12 opted out of the writing test, state records show. A handful opted out of required math exams, too.
This year, the number of Garfield students refusing to take a new set of state exams could be as high as 150, according to early estimates by Seattle Public Schools.
Ingraham and Roosevelt high schools also have received a high number of refusal forms from parents who don’t want their children taking the new tests, which are called Smarter Balanced, school-district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said Monday. The district won’t know exactly how many, she said, until the end of the testing period in late May or early June.
Some Garfield teachers also plan a news conference on Tuesday, where they say they will explain their opposition to the new, computerized tests, which are designed to measure whether students have reached the new learning standards known as the Common Core.
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Washington and most other states are now replacing their old, state-specific learning standards with the Common Core, and students here began taking the Smarter Balanced exams March 10, though some schools have yet to begin testing.
Garfield delayed testing — at one time slated to start Monday — because of a large influx of refusal forms Friday afternoon, Howard said. The school now plans to start testing later this week.
Parents have always had the option to keep their students from taking state tests. But state records suggest few families have actually done so.
This year, the tests have drawn ire from teachers critical of too much testing, and from some politicians who say the Common Core standards are an attack on local control. In New Mexico, for example, hundreds of students walked out of school to protest their new Common Core exams.
In Washington state, the Smarter Balanced tests have also been criticized by some parents, as well as two Seattle School Board members, for being too difficult and as an unfair measurement of a student’s abilities. Based on results from across 21 states, between 60 and 70 percent of the students who take the exams are expected to fail the first time.
And in Olympia, two bills proposing that Washington stop giving the Smarter Balanced tests failed in the Legislature.
Scores on the Smarter Balanced tests will be used to determine whether Washington students are performing at grade level and which schools are succeeding under the federal No Child Left Behind Act — at least as that law now stands. And starting in 2019, all state high-school students must pass the new exams to graduate, although a passing score has yet to be determined.
The number of students opting out of taking the test at Garfield is still just a rough estimate, Howard said.
Why the big apparent increase?
“We don’t know yet,” Howard said.
She said the district had no comment on the Garfield teachers’ planned news conference, beyond saying it is not a school-sanctioned event.
Nyland has said Seattle teachers who refuse to give the tests can be fired. In 2013, when a boycott of a different, district-mandated test drew national attention, then-Superintendent José Banda threatened teachers with discipline but ultimately did not sanction any of them, instead arranging for administrators and others to give the tests instead.