U.S. News

Seattle high school junior class skips standardized test in protest

SEATTLE (Reuters) - All 11th grade students at one Seattle public high school skipped a standardized test tethered to federal education requirements, a protest that has spread to other secondary schools, an official said on Friday.

Some Nathan Hale High School students submitted parent-signed refusal forms, while others merely skipped the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests this week, Seattle schools spokeswoman Stacy Howard said. More testing days are scheduled for next week.

The boycott follows a resolution by Nathan Hale teachers earlier this year against the test, aligned to the Common Core multi-state education standards in English and math.

“It’s a family decision,” Howard said. “If they do fill out these refusal forms, there is nothing we can do about it. We support the family’s choice.”

The local revolt comes amid an ongoing debate over how best to reinvigorate the nation’s estimated $600 billion public school system. It follows an anti-testing campaign in Seattle in 2013 mirrored in other U.S. cities.

Thousands of teachers across Washington state held strikes this week to demand higher pay.

Low test participation could have broader implications for teachers and students as Washington state public schools are required to give the Smarter Balanced tests to meet federal education requirements, said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the state’s superintendent.

Those requirements fall under No Child Left Behind, a law signed in 2002 requiring U.S. students to take annual standardized tests. It sanctions schools that do not meet yearly performance targets, Olson said.

Students who opt out will be given a score of zero, Howard said.

Last year, Washington lost a waiver exempting it from some requirements under the law. The state does not require teacher evaluations to be linked to state test scores.

Seattle Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland said in a letter to teachers that failing to administer tests could result in forfeiture of teaching licenses and cost federal funds.

Howard said about 320 students at Roosevelt High School and 250 students at Ingraham High School also failed to show up for the test, while at Garfield High School, which had not started testing, some 200 juniors have already signaled their disinterest.

On its website, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium says the public agency’s tests are “valid, reliable, and fair.”

“Students voted with their own feet,” Nathan Hale history teacher Doug Ingram told the Seattle Times newspaper. “They felt like they knew the facts, and made their own decisions.”

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by David Gregorio