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Friday, April 18 2014 @ 12:36 AM CDT

Seattle Teachers Protest Exams

Jesse Hagopian, with hand raised, and other Seattle teachers protested standardized exams Wednesday. Teachers at three Seattle schools are refusing to give students district-mandated standardized exams, one of the most dramatic moves in an escalating fight nationwide over using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools.

Seattle Teachers Protest Exams

By STEPHANIE BANCHERO
The Seattle Times/Associated Press

Jesse Hagopian, with hand raised, and other Seattle teachers protested standardized exams Wednesday.

Teachers at three Seattle schools are refusing to give students district-mandated standardized exams, one of the most dramatic moves in an escalating fight nationwide over using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools.

The Seattle boycott, which began in one of the schools and spread in recent weeks, comes after the district decided to make the tests part of Seattle teachers' evaluations this year. But it follows long-standing complaints by the teachers that the computerized exams take up too much instructional time and force schools to close off computer labs for long stretches to administer the exams.

"We've been raising our voices about this deeply flawed test for a long time," said Jesse Hagopian, who teaches history at Garfield High School, where teachers initiated the boycott by voting this month not to give the exam. But now that the district is using the test for evaluations, he said, "we've drawn our line in the sand."

The spat in Seattle comes as districts nationwide wrestle with how best to use student test scores to rate teachers. In the past three years, more than 25 states have passed laws to link scores to teacher evaluations, because officials think it is a more effective way to gauge performance than traditional reliance on observations by school principals.

But as local districts are trying to implement those policies, they are running into some resistance. New York City has forfeited hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars because union and city officials haven't agreed on a new evaluation system that would judge teachers, in part, on student test scores. The Los Angeles teachers union agreed earlier this month to use test scores in evaluations after a protracted fight with the district, and Chicago teachers staged a seven-day strike this past fall, in part, over efforts to judge them on students' test results.

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