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'They became heroes': Author Diane Ravitch on Seattle teachers' boycott of the MAP test

Jack Miller
Miller Photo 2019
Education historian and author Diane Ravitch

When teachers at Garfield High School announced in early 2013 that they refused to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, Seattle school officials threatened to suspend them for 10 days without pay.

The teachers didn’t back down, and the boycott spread to other schools, including Ballard High School and Orca K-8. The teachers held a protest outside of district headquarters chanting, “Scrap the MAP!” They argued the test sucked up valuable classroom time for limited purpose and gave unreliable results.

Education historian Diane Ravitch said it was a watershed moment.

“They stood together and they became heroes,” Ravitch said in an interview with KNKX Public Radio. “People all over the country, and even people outside the country, were sending them pizzas and flowers and greetings and saying, 'Stand strong,’ and eventually they won their fight.”

Seattle’s superintendent at the time, José Banda, wound up announcing that the MAP test would be optional for high school students. The test is still required for students in kindergarten through second grade.

The Garfield teachers’ boycott of the MAP test is featured in Ravitch’s latest book, "Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools."

Now a professor of education at New York University, Ravitch was assistant secretary of education from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. She was an early supporter of charter schools when Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, first suggested them in the late 1980s as a way to experiment with different educational approaches.

She also supported the push toward more accountability in schools that came with President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. But she later changed her views on that law and became a vocal critic of standardized testing. She also became an opponent of publicly funded charter schools as she observed corporations and entrepreneurs enter the charter industry.

Listen above to hear the conversation with Diane Ravitch.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.