Is a teacher who refuses to administer a required test a good role model for his or her students?
This month teachers in at least two Seattle public schools say their students will not take a test they believe has little value and is a waste of time.
The flap is over MAP.
Educators have an acronym-laced language that I’ll explain briefly because the type of test some teachers object to is important.
There are standardized tests all Washington students need to take, required by law, and high school students need to pass in order to graduate. Those tests are the Measurements of Student Progress and the High School Proficiency Exam. They’re referred to as the “mispy” and the “hispy,” though the proper acronyms are MSP and HSPE. They replaced the WASL – Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
In Seattle, and many other districts, students take an additional test called the MAP, Measures of Academic Progress. That’s the test some teachers refuse to oversee.
Students spend about 45 minutes completing each test for reading and math. They do this at least twice, possibly three times a school year.
The online test adapts to the student’s responses. Answer a question correctly and the test presents a more challenging question. Miss a question, the next question will be easier.
MAP does not count toward students’ grades. They don’t need to pass it in order to move to the next grade level, or graduate.
For some kids, it’s nothing more than computer mouse practice.
“Students are motivated by a variety of things. If they feel like something is not useful to them, they tend not to engage,” says Jonathan Knapp, President of the Seattle Education Association.
While the test doesn’t mean much for students, the district uses it as part of the teacher evaluation process.
“Low growth triggers additional evaluation of the teacher,” says Teresa Whipple with Seattle Public Schools. Higher scores lead to “career ladder opportunities.”
The education union voted this week to support fellow Seattle teachers who refuse to give the test.
“We spend so much time in testing and using so many resources,” says Knapp. “There’s only so much instructional time available in a school year and it (MAP) does not provide good feedback.”
The MAP test has pointed in the wrong direction from the beginning, according to Garfield history teacher Jesse Hagopian.
“The test was brought to us under an utter scandal,” he says. “Former superintendent, the late Maria Goodloe-Johnson sat on the board of the company that made the test and sells the test, that we adopted in the Seattle Public Schools for over $4 million.
It’s not me who has a problem with that. It was actually the state auditor who came in and found that to be an ‘ethics violation.'”
Garfield teachers have been getting support from all over the U.S. after Hagopian appeared on CNN earlier this week to discuss the controversy.
“There’s a lot of schools around the country under this testing, and testing, and more testing regime that has really served the interests of a corporate driven so called reform movement in education,” he says. “So many people are happy to see that Garfield is standing up and saying that education should be much more than just testing.”
He suggests student portfolios would be a better way of assessing how kids are doing throughout the school year.
Seattle Superintendent, Jose Banda, suggests teachers work with him to evaluate or improve the test. In the meantime, make sure students take it.
“MAP remains a required element of our overall student testing process. We expect school staff to fulfill their responsibilities and obligations to administer this test in a timely manner,” Banda says in a statement.
If they don’t, the district says any instances of teachers not giving the test will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for possible consequences.
Is a teacher who disobeys the superintendent’s mandate a good role model for his or her kids in the classroom?
“School is a really complicated thing. We have very important responsibilities in our lives to direct the community in responsible and moral ways,” says Knapp. “I think we can all point to individuals, really heroes in our history, who have challenged decisions that have been made.”
By LINDA THOMAS