January 28, 2013
Dear Seattle Public Schools Community,
We, the Salmon Bay elementary general education classroom teachers, voice our wholehearted support for our colleagues around the Seattle School District who are questioning the usefulness and/or refusing to give the MAP test. Although this week we will once again take time from teaching to proctor the test at Salmon Bay, our reluctant administration of MAP should in no way be construed as approval of this flawed and expensive test.
Our experience with the test over the past three years and research into the intended purpose of the test confirms our belief that the MAP inadequately evaluates students’ knowledge, diverts material and personnel resources from our program, and narrows the scope of a quality education.
Teachers in Seattle were told the test would inform instruction. This has not proved to be the case: MAP has not proved helpful in designing instruction. The MAP does not evaluate what is being taught in our classrooms and does not give teachers feedback that could help us understand individual student needs. Teachers don’t know what is on the test and are left to puzzle over the usefulness of disconnected numeric scores.
Assessment can take many forms, and at its best offers students the opportunity to think deeply, demonstrate knowledge of content that has been taught in class, and synthesize learning. The MAP test does none of this, as it tests a narrow range of skills, removed from the context of the student’s life and/or classroom experiences. Because the MAP is adaptive, asking questions that increase or decrease in difficulty depending on a student’s responses, it often inappropriately leads to concepts far above a given student’s grade level. This can leave the most capable students frustrated or uncertain of their abilities. After finishing the test, students can (and do) access their numeric scores, without any way of interpreting them, and can be heard discussing these numbers with their classmates. This can be devastating to the students who most need to feel supported and successful as learners.
The MAP only tests reading and math proficiency, thus narrowing the curriculum. Some administrators and teachers feel pressure to focus more time and attention on test preparation, to the expense of complex thinking, inquiry based learning, problem-solving, and other content areas.
Despite its authors’ disclaimer that MAP was not designed to be used for the evaluation of teachers, that is precisely how it is being used by Seattle Public Schools. It is also required as a prerequisite for students who wish to gain entry to Advanced Learning programs. Telling stakeholders that the MAP was intended to inform instruction, and then tying it to teacher evaluation and student tracking is disingenuous and manipulative.
The resources, both of time and money, that the MAP takes away from instructional programs is wasteful. Teachers, librarians, and administrators are required to invest their time and energy in creating testing schedules, booting up computers, troubleshooting inevitable network problems, and proctoring the tests. Many buildings lose the use of libraries and computer labs for research and classroom visits, for nine weeks each year, almost a whole academic quarter. Building funds may be diverted to hire proctors to administer the tests or to substitute for special education staff who are providing accommodations. And the MAP program itself, comes with its own price tag.
Our elementary teachers are committed to continuing this conversation. We strongly urge the Seattle School Board to direct District staff to discontinue the MAP and consult with principals and teachers to identify and understand more relevant and student centered forms of assessment. We thank the Garfield and Orca faculty for their inspiring courage to act on their convictions and for putting the needs of their students first.
Salmon Bay K-5 General Education Classroom teachers