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PTSA attends conversation to raise awareness on standardized testing

PTSA attends conversation to raise awareness on standardized testing
Courtesy of Jesse Hagopian

Garfield teacher and racial activist, Jesse Hagopian, held a conversation which was planned by the PTSA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion committee of Lincoln High. In the conversation, they discussed standardized testing, racial equity and improving racial diversity throughout not only the country, but the world. 

As an editor and co-editor of books such as Black Lives Matter at School and Teaching for Black Lives, Hagopian has made impactful changes for African Americans. 

More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing is a book which has been written and edited by Hagopian. In addition, a short documentary had been created where contributors of the book, mostly consisting of public school teachers and some parents, take a stand against standardized testing. 

Other parents and teachers agreed with Hagopain’s statements, claiming that standardized tests are designed to have not only students fail, but the teachers too. 

Hagopian believes that the beauty of teaching is being buried under the curriculum of having students fill in bubbles rather than using critical thinking and creativity in the classrooms.

On Wednesday, October 6th, partners from Ballard and Roosevelt High Schools, and Hamilton, McClure and Whitman Middle Schools teamed up on Zoom to get Hagopian’s words out to the public. 

Back at Garfield, Hagopian has decided to not give out standardized tests in his history classes, claiming that the tests hide more about the students’ knowledge than they reveal. 

“If you bubble ‘A’ on that Scantron sheet, I don’t know if you knew it, or if you just guessed it,” Hagopian said. 

As a result, Hagopian chose to have the students demonstrate their knowledge in other ways, rather than giving out multiple choice tests.

He explained how the students, by collectively working together and finding solutions, realized how knowledgeable the Black students were on how institutional racism worked.

Instead of the goal being to get the highest test score, the goal is going to be able to identify problems in our society and find collective solutions to that.

— Jesse Hagopian

Hagopian said. 

He also explained, despite the diversity at the school, how segregated classes at Garfield can be.

“But when you go classroom by classroom, you look in the advanced placement classes and it’s overwhelmingly white,” Hagopian said. “You look in the fourth Gen Ed courses, and it’s overwhelmingly black.” 

Disturbed by this, other staff members along with Hagopian fought for an honors-for-all program for ninth and tenth graders that combines on-level and honors students so that students at different learning stages would be united. 

Similarly, the Ballard High School Language Arts department moved to an honors-for-all program, a few years ago.

Without any planning time or funds provided from the district to create the integrated classrooms, the Garfield humanities department was able to create an integrated, honors-for-all classroom.  

“I saw the power of the integrated classroom,” Hagopian said.

By having students of different races work together, Hagopian explained his realization that all the students had a different type of knowledge and understanding of these situations how one level of understanding shouldn’t be privileged over another.

Gloria Kruzner, the Ballard PTSA president for almost a year, agreed with Hagopian’s point-of-view, that northern schools should be more collaborative, and inclusive when fighting racism. 

Even some of the chat comments from parents reflecting on their students’ experiences made me pause to think about how we are teaching and learning about each other,” she said.

 During the meeting, a mother commented on how small her daughter felt at school, as their teachings of the history of African Americans mainly revolved around slavery, which stood out to Kruzner.  

Jesse noted we’re erasing the joy, and the myriad of contributions by the whole BIPOC community, when teaching from that limited perspective,” she said.

Krunzer had stated some of her personal thoughts on standardized testing as well and explained her views and reasons for standing against it. 

As a parent, not as a PTSA rep, I think standardized testing creates a lot of unnecessary anxiety for our students,” Kruzner said. “I loved how Jesse said that a Number 2 pencil-filled bubble doesn’t reflect the test takers’ motive, drive, creativity or reasoning for filling it.”

Kruzner explained how perplexing it is to be teaching students just for them to fill in bubbles.

Hagopian is the founding member of Social Equity Educators (SEE), a democratic anti-oppression association that makes connections and engages in national social movements. He has even made appearances on national television on news channels including CNN, PBS, and HBO.

Hagopian is also the recipient of multiple awards such as the 2019 Radical Justice Teacher of the Year award, the 2012 Abe Keller Foundation award and the Social Justice Teacher of the Year award from Seattle Public School’s Department of Racial Equity.

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PTSA attends conversation to raise awareness on standardized testing