At a press conference last night, the group of teachers announcing their continued boycott of Seattle Public Schools' use of the MAP standardized test encouraged parents to participate by opting their kids out of the MAP test. The spring window for testing started last week and goes through early June; parents can opt their child out of nearly any standardized test by sending written notice to a school administrator that they wish to do so.
Phil Sherburne, president of the Garfield PTSA, said that parents there "joined with staff at the school" in opposition to this test, that they made it clear to all parents that they could opt their kids out of testing, and that "an overwhelming majority of them did that." Many of the teachers who were speaking on behalf of their schools are also parents and said they had opted their own kids out of testing, urging other parents to do the same.
This boycott has gained national attention, its participants have so far not been disciplined by the district, and it's expanding to other schools—they announced last night that teachers at Ingraham High School and Thornton Creek Elementary are now participating as well, joining the staff at five other schools.
They have a clearer message at this point, too—they're telling the district to "scrap the MAP" by not renewing the test contract for next year.
But it's still unclear what the alternatives will be; a district-led task force on testing seems doomed to fail, and an independent teacher-led group is devising recommendations that likely won't have traction with the district.
A couple of the teachers who were speaking, including Garfield's testing coordinator Kris McBride, are on the district's official task force. They said that group just doesn't have the time to do meaningful work looking at testing alternatives, and the task force membership is weighted heavily toward administrators, not teachers.
The separate group of teachers who have been meeting to draw up what they think assessment should look like will release findings any day that show a strong preference for a style of assessment sometimes called "body of evidence"—something comprehensive, portfolio-like, that includes classroom work, independent work, and some tests. I asked Liza Campbell of NOVA High School if she could imagine the district being receptive to that. "It goes against what, nationally, school reform is doing," she admitted. But those comprehensive assessments happen all over the country and the world; it's not impossible that they could come here.
I asked the district for a response to news that the boycotts will continue—specifically, is there any discipline expected for teachers who don't administer the test in the spring testing window? Will extra measures be taken to get students to take the test (as we saw at Garfield this winter when administrators pulled students out of classrooms to proctor the MAP when their teachers refused)? And perhaps most importantly: Is the district going to renew the MAP contract?
All I got was a generic statement from Superintendent José Banda:
I am aware of the teachers' ongoing concerns about the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. I look forward to hearing soon from the Task Force on Assessment and Measuring Progress, which includes principal, teacher, student, family and community representatives. This group, which has been meeting since February, is charged with reviewing District assessment programs, including MAP, and making recommendations for next year and beyond. As I have said before, it is my hope that we can work together to address concerns and issues in a constructive manner, in a way that puts our students first.
Maybe if parents start putting pressure on the district, they'll have to take more meaningful action.