At 2:06 pm on Monday, May 13th, a message from Seattle schools superintendent Jose Banda stated: “High schools may opt out of MAP in 2013-14.”
Banda was referring to the controversial Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), which has been boycotted by teachers in several Seattle high schools since January because of the deep flaws in the test, which is not aligned with the school curriculum and was brought to Seattle Public Schools through what a state investigator found was a conflict of interest. The boycott gave a boost to the national movement against the overuse of standardized tests, with support from across the U.S. and even abroad.
The announcement of this victory over the MAP test led to spontaneous celebrations at Garfield High School as students and teachers traded high fives, fist-bumps in the hallways.
Garfield Special Education teacher Serena Samar said of the announcement, “Our actions as a staff have reignited the belief that a group of people can make a difference. And the students feel our passion and drive which ignites their passion to be at school.”
Until now, the “Measures of Academic Progress” (or MAP) tests were required by the Seattle School District for students in all grades (K-12). A unified group of Garfield teachers announced in January, 2013, however, they were no longer going to administer the tests to students at Garfield. The Garfield PTSA quickly endorsed the effort, as did the student body. Four other Seattle high schools followed suit–Chief Sealth, Center School, Ballard, and Ingraham–and the bravery of these teachers led to a national movement. Even the University of Washington’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors endorsed the teachers’ boycott. MAP tests are sold by a national company, the Northwest Evaluation Association, which has not properly aligned them with student curriculum.
Upon hearing the announcement, Garfield reading teacher Mallory Clarke said, “I think the Seattle Schools’ final position on the MAP this year is evidence of the power of teachers. We carved out a bit of time from our overwhelming responsibilities to take on some of the worst features of so-called education reform, and we moved mountains. Getting free of the MAP at the high school level gives us an opening to pursue useful assessment. I’m excited about that! I’m sad, however, that middle school and elementary school teachers are still saddled with wasting valuable time on an invalid measure that serves to increase the achievement gap. So, we still have work to do.”
Two popular alternative elementary schools, ORCA and Thornton Creek, also declared they would boycott the test. Superintendent Banda’s e-mail warned, however, that students in grades kindergarten through eight will still be required to take the test next year. ORCA 4th grade teacher Matt Carter said, “We congratulate the high school teachers for their victory against the MAP test. But we know the MAP test is a giant waste of time and resources for our elementary schools students as well. Today we promise to maintain the boycott until no child in Seattle is subjected to this flawed assessment.”
Garfield’s original resolution cited many serious objections to the MAP test, including:
- Seattle School District staff have acknowledged that the test is not valid at the high school level because the margin of error is higher than the expected gains.
- The test is not properly aligned to the curriculum.
- Former Superintendent, the late Maria Goodloe-Johnson, brought the MAP to Seattle at a cost of some $4 million while she was serving on the board of the company that sells it. The state auditor called this an ethics violation because she did not disclose it until after the district approved the company’s contract.
- This test especially hurts students receiving extra academic support — English-language learners and those enrolled in special education. These are the kids who lose the most each time they waste five hours on the test.
- Computer labs are commandeered for weeks when the MAP is administered, so students working on research projects can’t use them. Students without home computers are hurt the most.
Garfield High School’s librarian, Janet Woodward summed up the meaning of the MAP test boycott for Garfield saying, “I feel vindicated by the decision to remove MAP testing from the high schools. Our movement has succeeded in exposing all of the fallacies of using this canned assessment. It is a waste of money and time, turns professionals into proctor clerks and produces results which are not statistically relevant.”
One of the great outcomes of the MAP test boycott has been the formation of the Teacher Work Group on Assessment that gathered some 20 educators from around Seattle to research testing and develop criteria for what should replace the MAP test. Part of Superintendent Banda’s decision on the MAP test for next year states that schools will need to develop their own assessments to replace the MAP and this document provides the guidelines to do just that. The document, titled, Teacher Work Group on Assessment Recommendations, Spring 2013, concluded that standardized tests have many flaws and that the MAP test should be replaced by assessments that: 1) reflect of actual knowledge and learning, not just test taking skills; 2) Are educational in and of themselves; 3) Are free of gender, class, and racial bias; 4) Are differentiated to meet students’ needs; 5) Allow opportunities to go back and improve; 6) Undergo regular evaluation and revision by educators.
One author of the Assessment Recommendations, Gerardine Carroll said, “Our recommendations for what constitutes quality assessment represent hours of work of many dedicated educators who used their educational expertise to help the Seattle schools understand what constitutes holistic assessment.” Co-author Liza Campbell said, “The Seattle School Districts needs to consider the findings of Seattle’s educators in our report before adopting any other test.”
This victory over the MAP test would not have been possible without the united efforts of educators, parents and students from around the city, state, nation, and the world. A full list of all the organizations that made our victory possible is available at: https://scrapthemap.wordpress.com/solidarity-statements-2/
The Seattle Scrap The MAP Committee would like to especially thank:
Praise is due for the Garfield High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA, the parent-run body of the school) for their unanimous vote to support the MAP test boycott. PTSA President Phil Sherburne’s visionary leadership proved decisive in our victory for quality assessment. Moreover, we thank the hundreds of parents who made the educated decision to opt their student out of the test and refused to have their child’s complex intellectual process reduced to a single number.
The students who held meetings, wrote poems, and distributed flyers against the MAP test showed great ingenuity and critical thinking skills. Their independent decision to refuse to take the test by the hundreds was critical to this victory over the MAP test.
The dozens of prominent educators who supported our struggle provided the analysis that helped our boycott gain a wider hearing. Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ravitch, Karen Lewis, Nancy Paige-Carlson, Lois Weiner, Brian Jones, and Wayne Au all provided critical support.
The Scrap The MAP committee would like to thank the members and Association Representatives of the Seattle Education Association (the teacher’s union) for their support, passion, and dedication to supporting the boycotting teachers. The old labor song that goes, “The union makes us strong” was proven once again. We would also like to thank SEA President Jonathan Knapp for attending our negotiating sessions with the Seattle School District Superintendent Jose Banda and allowing the boycotting teachers the space to take the lead in those discussions.
We want to thank National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel for his written support of our boycott and for his call to our rally to inspire our teachers. His words gave courage to teachers who were facing great odds. As well, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s support for our boycott was indispensable and a truly powerful showing of solidarity.
The Washington Education Association’s vocal support and publicity of our boycott helped keep educators around the state stay informed of how they could help.
We also want to thank all the teachers and their unions around the world that supported our boycott, including the Japanese Education Workers Caucus, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, and the United Kingdom’s National Union of Teachers.
The support of education organizations who have been struggling for quality assessments for years was especially appreciated. The Seattle chapter of the NAACP, Rethinking Schools, Fair Test, The Zinn Education Project were all vital to building solidarity to our struggle around the city and the nation.
Garfield history teacher Jesse Hagopian said of the victory, “We couldn’t have ‘scrapped the MAP’ for high schools without the support of thousands of people across the nation and around the world. We have over a decade of experience with the “No Child Left Behind” obsession with standardized testing, and it hasn’t worked to improve education. We hope that our victory serves as to further the movement for quality assessment.”