FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Assessments in Seattle Not Meeting Teacher, Student Needs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ASSESSMENTS IN SEATTLE NOT MEETING TEACHER, STUDENT NEEDS

Contact: Gerardine Carroll
Tel. 206.851.3220
Email: gerardine@earthlink.net

Grassroots Teacher Group Releases Initial Findings to SPS Assessment Task Force

The research by a group of teachers in Seattle has raised deep concerns about the nature and use of the assessments students in the Seattle Public Schools take. “We read quite a bit about what makes good assessments, and we’ve come up with what we feel is a solid list of criteria that good assessments must meet,” said Mallory Clarke, a teacher at Garfield High School who helped to organize the teacher work group on assessments. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of Seattle’s assessments don’t line up.”

Many of the criteria that the teachers found in their research may seem obvious to some. Adam Gish said, “We have a list of fourteen qualities that assessments should have if they are going to be sound measures of students’ strengths, and if they are going to be useful for instruction and for decision-making. For example, they should incorporate a variety of measures and they should reflect actual knowledge and learning, not test-taking skills. Evidence also suggests that assessments are most useful when they are graded collaboratively by teachers, and include community input.”

When the teachers compared their research-based criteria to the assessments that Seattle Public School students take, they found most assessments to be way off the mark. One teacher, Shawn LeValley, said, “The high school Classroom Based Assessments were fairly strong in terms of meeting the criteria, and so were International Baccalaureate exams. An assessment used to gauge the reading fluency of early elementary students was fairly close as well. But the remainder- an additional twelve tests that SPS students are taking every year- had far more check marks in the ‘does not meet criteria’ column than the ‘does meet criteria’ one.”

Many other states and districts have assessments that demonstrate growth as well as standards achieved, include classroom work, and are educational in and of themselves. Wyoming, for example, uses a “Body of Evidence” assessment which the group studied. “Unfortunately, Seattle’s assessments are generally disconnected from the educational experiences of the student. Many tend to narrow the curriculum, and very few help teachers to meet students’ needs,” said Gerardine Carroll, a humanities teacher at The Center School.

The group sent their initial findings on the criteria for good assessment to the district’s Task Force on Assessment last week, and is sending their reflections on how the current assessments used by the district line up with those criteria today. The thirty-member district task force, which was founded with the stated goal of deepening dialogue around assessment, has only five teachers out of thirty participants. According to several members, the agendas for the task force meeting are pre-set with little opportunity for truly engaging and open dialogue. Teachers are worried that the task force may be intended as a “rubber stamp” for whatever decisions the district already wanted to make.

The MAP test, which a fair number of teachers across the district are refusing to administer because they feel it serves no educational purpose, met not a single one of the group’s criteria. Jesse Hagopian, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the MAP exam, said that, to him, this wasn’t surprising. “We know that the MAP test is a waste of our students’ time and of precious resources. We also see now that as far what quality assessments really should be, the MAP is as far off as the district could get.”

The teachers will be meeting again today – Tuesday, April 2nd – at Garfield High School to continue their research.  Interested teachers should contact Gerardine Carroll for more information about the meetings.

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