Successful Dropouts?

Why Seattle Teachers Are Getting National Attention

Successful Dropouts?

A group of local teachers has launched Seattle into a national conversation about standardized testing. A Garfield High School history teacher was interviewed on CNN, education leaders including Noam Chomsky and former assistant US secretary of education Diane Ravitch have come out in support of local teachers, and teachers' unions across the country are sending statements of solidarity. All because our teachers have flat-out refused to give a test.

On January 10, dozens of Garfield teachers announced that, "in perhaps the first instance anywhere in the nation," they were universally refusing to administer the district-mandated Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, calling it "counterproductive" and a waste of "time, money, and precious school resources." Several other schools committed to boycotting the test as well; others sent public letters of support.

Their concerns are hard to refute. First, the MAP test—unlike other standardized tests students take here—is not aligned to state standards, meaning that it asks questions about concepts students haven't been taught and the state doesn't even expect them to be taught. Second, the test was instated by a previous superintendent, the late Maria Goodloe-Johnson, while she sat on the board of the company that sold the test—a conflict of interest she did not disclose at the time. Third, according to teachers, the gains high school students are expected to make in their scores are actually within the margin of error of the test's grading. And those are just the top three complaints.

Two weeks after the boycott began, the school district warned that teachers who failed to administer the exam by a February 22 deadline would be guilty of "insubordination" and potentially subject to a 10-day unpaid suspension.

That doesn't seem like a feasible threat, though: If teachers don't administer the test by the deadline, does the district plan to suspend entire schools' worth of teachers? The testing deadline will have passed, and besides, the substitute teachers association supports the boycott, too.

School district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel downplays the suspension letter as "routine" communication. For his part, superintendent José Banda says the MAP "provides critical data," but the district has provided little more explanation of its support for the exam.

The district's task force, including teachers and district administration, is now set to meet on February 7.

But it's not clear that teachers have a clear alternative to the MAP. Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield teacher who's been acting as a spokesman for his colleagues, says that while some support a replacement test better aligned with state curriculum, the district should also consider more holistic assessments (for example, graded portfolios of student work). They don't seem to be presenting a unified front, though. When teachers head into meetings next week, they'll need to pitch a reasonable alternative. recommended


Comments (7) RSS

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Kudos to Seattle Public School teachers for boycotting the MAP test! It's about time educators held officials accountable for their wrongful "accountability" ideas. High-stakes standardized tests are damaging our education system. They cost a huge amount of money, they are narrowing our curriculum and our students' minds, and they are a very incomplete way of measuring human growth. Please go to the following website and sign a petition to President Obama to let him know that we need to eliminate the mis-use of these tests. The petition needs 100,000 signatures by February 22 to get a response from the White House:….

"You make the path. If you look, you'll find a way. A path, a trail, an old road. . .it's about discovering mobility, independence, and places to hang out in the underbrush. It's about getting there on your own two legs."
--Gary Snyder

"We have many fine public schools that are valued community institutions. We would have many more if we resolved to reduce poverty."
--Diane Ravitch
Posted by Nancy Kessler on February 2, 2013 at 9:40 PM · Report this
It will be interesting to see if the teachers put their money where their mouths are.
Posted by billwald on February 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM · Report this
Eight years ago I remember having high school classes dedicated to preparing for the WASL, the state standardized test at the time. It was insane how much time we spent on it. Meanwhile, I never learned about the Vietnam war and only briefly touched on WWII in history. My high school education was a joke and it looks like it still is for many.
Posted by Drewksi on January 30, 2013 at 5:26 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 4
@1 A non-profit company is still a company that has interests, on which Dr. Goodloe-Johnson sat as director.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 30, 2013 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Paulus22, it is you who is incorrect on the content alignment issue. But you don't have to take my word for it. The publishers themselves write on this very issue on their website:…

I agree with your other point, that students are over-tested, but MSP is far worse than MAP for measuring student progress over time. It wasn't designed to do that. I hear people suggest that portfolios are the way to go, and I agree with that, but that portfolio needs to include objective measures of student progress (as a minority portion of the portfolio, I would argue). For that, MAP is better than anything else.
Posted by Mr.Wizard on January 30, 2013 at 2:09 PM · Report this
Mr. Wizard, your first point is not correct. The MAP is not aligned to Common Core standards. Period. And other points were not made in the article at all. As a teacher in Seattle, my biggest beef with the test (other than the data being flawed because the gains are within the margin of error) is that it takes time and money and resources away from the classroom. Students in 9th and 10th grades are tested at least 7 times a year, three of which are mandated MAP tests. No matter how great the data is (and it isn't), this is absurd.
Posted by paulus22 on January 30, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
Shame on you, Anna, for not doing your homework on this story. The three concerns you list are all not borne out by fact. 1) The MAP assessments absolutely are tied to state content standards. 2) The MAP assessments are produced by a non-profit organization called the Northwest Evaluation Association, which was originally a partnership established in 1974 between Seattle Public School District and Portland, OR area school districts to create a series of objective tests that can be used to measure students' progress in general reading and math over time. 40 years later, NWEA is still non-profit, and its board consist almost entirely of school teachers and administrators, precisely because they know best how to serve their students. 3) Student gains can be measured more precisely on MAP than almost any other standardized test because of the test adapts to students' current achievement levels, getting harder as kids do better and easier as they do poorly. What this is really about is teachers' unwillingness to have any part of their performance evaluation tied to student growth measures, even though in SPS, the principal's evaluation of teacher performance can disregard student test data if the principal believes them to be inconsistent with other information. In other words, the growth data are only supplemental to the evaluation. When people like Jesse Hagopian and SEA president Jonathan Knapp compare themselves to Martin Luther King, as though their efforts to avoid professional accountability are somehow akin to martyring one's self for racial equality, one has to seriously question their judgment and their motivations.
Posted by Mr.Wizard on January 30, 2013 at 11:25 AM · Report this

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