Garfield High School student leaders, from left to right, Maddy Kennard, Dawit Nuguse, Kevin Nguyen, Chan Huynh and Jess Juanich.
The Obama administration and Washington State wants juniors to take a new standardized test. These Garfield High School students aren't having it. From left to right: Maddy Kennard, Dawit Nuguse, Kevin Nguyen, Chan Huynh, and Jess Juanich. Kevin Nguyen

Roughly 220 students at Garfield High School have opted out of taking a new standardized test called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, part of federal Common Core curriculum and testing regimen promulgated by the Obama administration, and they're reaching out to journalists to explain why.

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Some teachers have long had concerns about the exams and planned on boycotting them. But Garfield teacher Jesse Hagopian says that at his high school, so many have opted out that "the majority of students in every class wouldn’t be taking the exam and therefore it is against the testing rules to have them in the computer lab while the test is being administered."

In other words, the decision on whether to administer the test is no longer in teachers' hands. (School district spokesperson Stacy Howard says the 220 number is "about right" and added that about half of the juniors at Garfield, Roosevelt, and Ingraham high schools have opted out.)

Yesterday evening, local media outlets received the below communiqué from the student government at Garfield High School. I reached Garfield class of 2016 president Kevin Nguyen, a junior, by phone and asked him what moved the students to protest the test. The SBAC exam has no impact on their grades or ability to graduate, he explained, and it's the first time it's being rolled out in Washington. "We’re like the guinea pigs of this test," he says, "and that’s why it’s not a graduation requirement. We didn’t agree to this."

His language arts class was slated to be replaced with SBAC testing in the computer lab, he says. "That’s super unfair for your language arts class. I think it’s a complete waste of class time."

Here's the Garfield student government (each of the officers were elected by their classmates) declaration in full:

WE THE STUDENTS OF GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL,

We are leading a movement in protest of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC.) Here are several reasons why we oppose the SBAC and its consequences.

• The SBAC is unnecessary and not required for graduation if a student has passed the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE.)

• Data from initial SBAC testing indicate that only 30 to 35 percent of students are expected to pass. This is setting up 70 percent of our students for failure and will lead to increased student anxiety and a decrease in student morale.

• Students who choose not to opt-out of taking the SBAC will miss two full days of valuable class time to take the reading and math portions of the SBAC. This interferes with preparation for final exams and Advanced Placement exams.

• All of our computers will be unavailable to students and teachers during the week of SBAC testing because the assessment is administered on computers. Since 31 percent of our student body is on free or reduced lunch, this standardized test disproportionately and inequitably impacts our lower income students, many of whom rely on access to school computers for classwork and studying.

Already, over 220 Garfield students, 55 percent of our junior class, have opted out of taking the SBAC, which demonstrates our clear opposition to this test. The students of Garfield High School have come to this decision on their own accord based on the aforementioned evidence.

2014/15 Garfield High School Class of 2016 ASB Officers

President: Kevin Nguyen
Vice President: Jess Juanich
Secretary: Dawit Nuguse
Treasurer: Maddy Kennard
Senator: Chan Huynh
Advisor: Sydney Bowker
Advisor: Hannah Farrell