More Teachers Refuse to Give Standardized Tests

| January 21, 2013 | 6 Comments
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An entire school of teachers in Seattle is refusing to give students a standardized test that’s required by the district. The teachers say the test is useless and wastes valuable instructional time.

Meanwhile, individual teacher protests of standardized tests are popping up nationwide, and the Seattle case may make bigger waves.

Students in Seattle Public Schools take a test called the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, up to three times a year, from kindergarten through at least ninth grade. The school district requires the test to measure how well students are doing in reading and math — in addition to annual standardized tests required by the state.

“No one likes what’s going on, but no one has really found a mechanism to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong,’”

The MAP test is used as part of the teacher-evaluation process, and it’s supposed to help teachers gauge students’ progress.

“We’ve lost a whole lot of class time. I don’t know what the test was about, and I just see no use for it at all,” says Kit McCormick, who teaches English at Garfield High School.

McCormick says teachers are never allowed to see the test, so she has no idea how to interpret her students’ scores.

“So I’m not going to do it. But I’d be happy to have my students evaluated in a way that would be meaningful for both them and me,” she says.

Instead of this kind of high-stakes testing, teachers at Garfield propose that student learning be judged by portfolios of their work.

The school’s academic dean, Kris McBride, was supposed to administer the test this week. Instead, she’s standing behind the teachers. McBride says a major problem with the test is that it doesn’t seem to align with district or state curricula.

“In fact, our Algebra 1 students go in and sit in front of a computer and take this math test. It’s filled with geometry; it’s filled with probability and statistics and other things that aren’t a part of the curriculum at all,” she says.

ADMINISTRATIVE EXPECTATIONS

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda says the teachers are expected to fulfill their responsibilities.

He says the MAP test’s frequency is useful in making sure students are learning what they should be but has invited teachers to take part in a formal district review of its effectiveness. That still doesn’t let them off the hook from administering the test, though.

[RELATED: Movement Against Standardized Tests Grow as Parents Opt Out]

“In the meantime, they have duties they’re supposed to complete, making sure that this assessment is given,” he says.

Banda says instead of boycotting the MAP test, teachers should work with the district to find solutions to their concerns.

A ‘RIPPLE EFFECT’?

In recent years, individual teachers around the country have refused to give standardized tests, says New York University education professor Diane Ravitch. A critic of the nationwide trend of high-stakes standardized testing, Ravitch says this move by entire school of teachers is unusually gutsy.

“No one likes what’s going on, but no one has really found a mechanism to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong,’” she says. “So I think this is incredibly encouraging, too, and I am sure that they will be applauded by teachers around the country. They may even have a ripple effect on other schools.”

That’s already happening in Seattle. Now, a group of elementary teachers at another school there says it will boycott the MAP test, too.

UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS 

Not surprisingly, students also support the test boycott.

“I don’t like any standardized tests, but I feel like some may be necessary,” says 16-year-old Alicia Butler, a junior at Garfield.

She says she’s OK with taking the state tests to graduate, or the SATs to get into college. But she says students don’t take the MAP test seriously, and that could hurt good teachers.

“Since people are aware that we don’t need it to graduate, they’ll just start clicking on things,” she says. “A lot of these teachers here are good, so they’ll get lower evaluations, and it’s not fair.”

The school district hasn’t said what it will do to any teacher who fails to give students the MAP test. The superintendent has given them until Feb. 22 to comply.

Via NPR.

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  • Guest

    It seems that these students can NOT pass the test. What does that say about the Seattle teachers or the students? Not much.

    We are falling our students and they will not be able to compete on the world stage. We are seeing this today as we are around 29th on the world educational stage. The parents do not seem to care about their children’s future.

  • http://www.halfpastkissintime.com Mrs4444

    It seems to me that the problem lies not in the test but in the training of those whose jobs it affects. My school has students take the MAP test, and I find it useful. I have a username and password to go to the MAP test and interpret my students’ results and areas of weakness. I don’t know why it’s kept such a secret in the Seattle District. The new MAP test is now aligned with the Common Core State Standards. What more can teachers ask for?

  • David

    i approve. please, refuse homework too. studies do not support it.

  • eduleadership

    MAP is more instructionally useful in the elementary grades, but I support the Garfield staff in resisting the continued misuse of this test. It should not be used to evaluate teachers, and it’s really not instructionally useful for high schoolers at all.

    I sat in the room during the initial Seattle MAP trainings when everyone was told that the results would not be used to evaluate teachers, but only to monitor student progress. This was the intent of nearly everyone at the time, but the temptation to use a fairly solid data source as part of teacher evaluations was apparently too tempting.

    Those who made the decision no longer work for Seattle Public Schools, so you probably won’t see the district put up much of a fight on this.

    I’m all for monitoring student progress, but the problem is that MAP does not actually assess what is taught, so it’s not very useful for that purpose. It shows in very broad terms how well a student is doing in reading or math, but we already collect plenty of curriculum-based data that are more useful.

  • Kaare Nilsen

    I have been teaching senior high school students in Norway for 36 years and retired only last summer. We have a similar debate going on in our papers about the schools in our capital Oslo. When I read above what the dean of this school, Kris McBride, says, I am highly surprised. Quote; – “In fact, our Algebra 1 students go in and sit in front of a computer
    and take this math test. It’s filled with geometry; it’s filled with
    probability and statistics and other things that aren’t a part of the
    curriculum at all”.

    Who then is working our such tests when tests are not according to curriculum? I take it for granted that the district school authorities are responsible for the tests, so why is there a clear difference between test content and curriculum? The national tests introduced in Norway as a direct result of state tests in the US have been opposed massively among teachers in Norway because the tests only tell the scores students get, NOT anything about teachers, NOT anything about teaching methods or anything else for that matter. Bottom line is both here and in the US; – whose interest is at bay here – politicians’ interest in testing teachers through their students’ academic achievements, or what the students actually learn at school?

  • Thinkersed.com

    I liked this new concept as yrs we can judge that it is a wastage of time. And rather then giving standardized tests to students, teachers prefer to give them a normal one.