Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda directed administrators at Garfield High School to give the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test Tuesday despite a mass boycott by the school’s teachers.
On Monday Banda met with Garfield teachers for the second time in hopes of ending their nearly four-week-long boycott of the MAP test. Banda said that he had some good conversations and dialogue with the teachers about their concerns.
"I think I was able to hear very clearly. But in terms of coming up with some common ground or common solutions, we weren’t able to get there, and time’s running out,” said Banda. The superintendent had given teachers until Feb. 22 to give the test. But he says Garfield teachers had made it clear they weren’t going to cooperate, so he ordered the school's administration to call in substitute teachers to do the job if necessary.
Students take MAP tests up to three times a year, in reading and math, from kindergarten through ninth grade or beyond. Many teachers say that’s too much time away from the classroom, and that the test doesn’t serve its intended purpose of giving teachers useful, mid-year data on student skill levels.
Garfield librarian Janet Woodward described teachers' reaction to the superintendent's decision in one word: disgust. Woodward usually proctors the MAP test, even though she’s objected to it for years. She says the superintendent should take teachers' protest seriously.
“It’s come to this because no one has listened," Woodward said. "We’ve complained about it, our [union] has taken a stand against this. So I don’t know what the point is on forcing it. I would like [district officials] to explain how this data will be useful to them."
It’s unclear how much data the district will be able to collect from Garfield students during this round of MAP testing. Many parents have opted their kids out of the assessment since the boycott began, both to bolster the teachers' protest and because some parents question the test's usefulness and validity.
Fifteen-year-old freshmen Caleb and Audrey, who are twins, already had letters from home opting them out of the test. They said there was a flurry of organizing activity on students' Facebook pages and Twitter feeds the night before as word spread that the tests would be administered the next day.
"There were people handing out flyers in the hallway, and I got asked right when I walked in, by a senior, you know, 'Have you opted out?'" Caleb said. "I think we’re just trying to support the teachers in their decision, and also, of course, we agree. So we're just trying to rally together, I guess."
Woodward says in a typical testing cycle, 90 students take the MAP test in the library each period. On Tuesday, only a handful of students showed up to be tested and Woodward said many appeared to be rushing through the computerized test.
Caleb and Audrey had heard that, too. "Someone in my class today took it in nine seconds," Audrey said. "You just press 'enter' repeatedly, I guess," Caleb says.
Since Garfield teachers announced their boycott, groups of teachers at Chief Sealth and Ballard high schools, as well as Orca K-8 and The Center School, have joined the protest. Educators and activists around the country have scheduled a nationwide protest for Wednesday in support of the MAP test boycott in Seattle.