In his most recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama promised "A country that leads the world in educating its people." In his second inaugural address, he promised to "reform our schools" as part of his administration's effort to promote "equality" and defend this country's "most ancient values and enduring ideals." But despite these promises, a growing number of parents and teachers are unhappy with his showcase program, Race to the Top. They argue it is the antithesis of the education, justice, and equality he claims is central to his ideas and American values.
The latest battleground in the debate over whether Obama-initiated school reforms actually deform education in the United States is Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington. At Garfield, teachers have organized a boycott of standardized tests, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), used to evaluate students and teachers. The governing board of the Seattle Public School system has also decided to review MAP and other tools used for assessing students and teachers. The School District uses MAP tests to track student progress and as part of its evaluation of teacher performance. Garfield High School teachers call the MAP testing regime useless at best and even harmful to many students, MAP tests are currently used by 6,000 school districts across the country including 209 districts with to most students in grades Kindergarten through ninth. Garfield teachers argue the tests are not aligned with school curriculum so they do not measure what is actually taught in classes. In addition, the tests, designed and marketed by the Northwest Evaluation Association, were never intended for use in evaluating teachers. The test boycott was endorsed by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) and the American Federation of Teachers. An online petition signed by leading educators in the United States also supports the boycott.
At the same time, pressure is growing to oppose what are considered the arbitrary and discriminatory closing of public schools because of Race to the Top mandates. Students, parents and advocacy representatives from 18 major United States cities plan to testify at a hearing before the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 29, and to rally in front of the building and at the Martin Luther King Memorial. They are demanding that the Department of Education declare a moratorium on school closings and design a plan to support community school improvement. Organizers are also requesting a meeting with President Obama. According to organizers, at least ten cities have filed or are in the process of filing Title VI Civil Rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights arguing that school closings discriminate against low-income, minority communities.