Seattle Public Schools officials and the company that produces the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test are defending the school district's use of the standardized test after Garfield High School teachers refused to give it to their students this quarter.
Seattle Public Schools requires that students take the MAP test in reading and math two or three times a year, from kindergarten through ninth grade or beyond. But teachers at Garfield say they consider the test useless and a waste of vital instructional time. They announced last week that they have voted overwhelmingly to boycott the MAP test.
Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda says he hears teachers' frustrations. “They chose this way to express themselves and the message is heard loud and clear,” Banda said. “But I’m going to hold firm to the fact that they have obligations and responsibilities. And the expectation is these two assessments will be given."
In a letter to teachers today, Banda said the MAP test is useful for measuring students' academic growth over time. "I recognize there are concerns about MAP testing, but many educators in our district use MAP results, along with other data, in order to make informed instructional decisions during the year," Banda said. But he announced that beginning next month, he will invite teachers and principals to participate in a formal process to review the effectiveness of the MAP test, which he called the appropriate venue to share concerns and to have an in-depth discussion about the test.
Students’ MAP test scores are used in the teacher evaluation process. But Garfield teachers point to information from the test maker that warns that MAP scores should be used with caution in teacher evaluations. Teachers say they can’t prepare kids for the MAP test or interpret students’ scores because teachers aren’t allowed to see the test.
John Cronin, who directs research at the MAP test maker, Northwest Evaluation Association, says the test is designed to be useful to teachers. “We offer a lot of information that’s available to teachers that would give them very concrete information about the skills that are tested on the test," Cronin said.
Cronin says Seattle is thoughtful in how it uses student MAP test scores as just one of many factors in teacher evaluations. He says it's a mystery to him why an entire school of teachers would vote to boycott the test. Laughing, Cronin said, "You know, it’s not even something I can speculate on. It’s interesting to us, but not being Seattleites ourselves, I really can’t say that I know what’s motivating them.”
It’s not just Seattleites who are sympathizing with the Garfield teachers. The story has gone viral among teachers, parents and others around the country, who say far too much emphasis is now placed on standardized testing. The move has gotten international attention for what may be the first en masse vote against standardize testing by a public school.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Education Association teachers union, the Garfield PTSA, and a group of 25 teachers at Ballard High School in Seattle have all announced their support for the Garfield teachers' refusal to administer the MAP test.