The Seattle School District wrapped up its MAP testing yesterday, despite a boycott by teachers and students at Garfield High and several other schools. Teachers who refused to give the test, claiming it was a waste of time and money, are now waiting to hear the consequences. Early in the boycott, the district warned of a possible 10-day suspension to "insubordinate" teachers--but that was before the protest caught fire nationally, generating support among schools from coast to coast, and getting airtime on the Dan Rather report.
Now, the legislature is getting in on the action.
Rep. Mike Hope, a Republican from Snohomish County, has introduced a bill that would require school districts each year to provide a host of information to parents about the battery of standardized tests their kids are subjected to these days. That would include how much time each test would take, whether the test is required by the state or federal government, the impact of test scores for students and--perhaps most interestingly of all-- how much the tests cost.
Anti-testing sentiments are often voiced by activists who who portray themselves as fighting business and other establishment interests that are part of an education reform movement--one that believes in rigorous testing and holding teachers "accountable" for their students scores. But there's also a fiscal prudence element to the anti-testing argument, and Hope is sounding that note in pushing HB 1293.
"Knowledge will allow people to make more informed decisions about how their children are educated and how their tax dollars are spent," the lawmaker says on his website.
Rich Wood, spokesperson for the Washington Education Association, which is supporting Hope's bill, tells Seattle Weekly that the state teachers union estimates that schools statewide spend $100 million a year on testing. That's a lot of money at a time that the legislature is desperately trying to find more school funding to comply with the state Supreme Court McCleary decision, which holds that the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to amply provide for eduction.
Yet, Hope's bill, which has been passed out of committee, would cost some money too--more than $1.2 million a year to compile and distribute all the required information, according to a fiscal note.
Wood says his organization isn't bothered by that outlay since it would come out of the budget for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, not from funding that goes directly to schools. OSPI, naturally, isn't so sanguine. "Without the extra funds we would not be able to support the bill," says OSP spokesperson Nathan Olson.