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Credit: Ann Dornfeld

District Threatens Suspensions, Seattle Teachers Continue Test Boycott

The Seattle School District warned teachers Wednesday they face a 10 day suspension without pay if they refuse to give students the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. The announcement came nearly two weeks after the teaching staff at Garfield High School announced they were refusing to give students the district-wide MAP test.

Groups of teachers at several other schools have followed suit, calling the test a waste of time, money and resources.

Kids take the MAP test up to three times a year, from kindergarten through ninth grade or beyond. It’s used to gauge students’ progress throughout the year and is part of the teacher evaluation process.

Now, Superintendent José Banda says if teachers don't give the test within the next month, they face suspension.

"Failure to follow through on this can be viewed as an insubordination, and insubordination is a violation of certain policies for us. So we would deal with that in the way we deal with anyone else who refuses to follow through on some work obligations," Banda told reporters at a news conference.

Principals received a letter from the district's human resources department on Wednesday directing principals to notify their staff by the end of the day of the potential disciplinary action.

Banda told reporters that the district may ultimately need to change the way it uses the MAP test, and that the district may need to do a better job of training teachers to interpret student test scores. He has invited teachers to join an upcoming task force that will examine the district's overall testing regimen.

But many teachers say they want change now.

Teachers and supporters called for the district to "scrap the MAP" at a rally at district headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association teachers union, told teachers that the union and its members are standing up for what is right. He said the MAP test is not helping students or teachers in Seattle, or keeping the faith with the public demand for sensible public education. "Why are we beholden to a process simply because it is the process?" Knapp said, to loud applause.

Despite the new threat of suspension, Orca K-8 teacher Matt Carter used a "Lord of the Rings" reference to declare his intent to keep boycotting. "To quote a friend of mine at another school, we're willing to go all the way to Mount Doom on this one if we have to with all your support, the support of parents. I really appreciate it," Carter said. "They're playing hardball, so game on!"

Schools around the district have voiced their support for the boycott. So have education experts and scholars from around the country including writers Jonathan Kozol and Noam Chomsky.