“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
Teachers and students at Garfield High School and many other schools in the Greater Seattle area continue to protest the Measures of Academic Progress test in an ongoing tug-of-war between schools and administrators. Teachers are facing penalties for refusing to administer the test, students are individually opting out by the hundreds, and the organization that makes the MAP is focusing on a concerted public relations campaign to combat what they say are myths about the test and how it is administered.
Initially, teachers were required to administer the MAP no later than February 22, 2013. When that date came and went, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda extended the “testing window” to March 1. By the end of the extended window, only 22 percent of the scheduled tests at Garfield High were administered and a majority of them, a total of 104, were deemed invalid. For the computerized MAP test to show invalid results, students must complete the test in far less time than the one-hour average and present answers that appear more or less random. These figures come from a report by Chris McBride, the Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield.
The behavior of students suggests that the protest against the MAP has expanded from those who administer it to those it is supposed to evaluate. In addition to the invalid test results, many students expressed their refusal to take the test in a variety of ways. Two hundred and seventy-three students, some scheduled to take either the math or reading test and some scheduled to take both, presented opt-out notices. A number of students refused to come to the testing station when asked, while others staged a walkout by logging into their testing stations and then leaving before taking the test.
The protest continued outside the schools as well as during the testing window extension.
One day before the new deadline, a panel of educators met at the University of Washington for Scrap the MAP, a rally and discussion about so-called “high-stakes testing” and the trend of protest against it around the United States.
In the midst of the protest MAP maker, the Northwest Evaluation Association, has been reaching out to the media via an education-focused firm called Collaborative Communications Group. CCG has previously worked with organizations such as the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and United Way. The NWEA’s CEO Matt Chapman wrote an opinion piece for the Seattle Times in January defending the MAP at the same time the organization released a document called “Myths and Truths” addressing many of the concerns expressed by teachers at Garfield and elsewhere in the SPS system.
The Capitol Hill Times spoke to John Cronin, the NWEA’s director of the Kingsbury Center for research. When asked about the claim by some Garfield teachers that the MAP asks “unfair” questions that do not pertain to actual course work, he said, “[Garfield High teachers] believe the test should align directly to their curriculum.”
Cronin also addressed the outrage over the alleged use of the MAP to evaluate teachers. The MAP is what Seattle Public Schools classifies as a “prescriptive” test that is designed to highlight areas of need during the school year rather than a “descriptive” test that indicates aptitude.
Of using the MAP to judge teacher performance, Cronin said, “We believe that that is not an appropriate use of the test.” This echoes similar statements he made in 2010 when the same concern rose among teachers in Charleston, S.C. He went on to suggest that if principals wish to use the MAP as part of their teacher evaluations, it should not be the sole, rigid measure of the evaluation.
“It should be the ‘yellow light’ for the assessment process,” Cronin said.
Teachers who refused to administer the MAP still face a potential ten-day suspension without pay for insubordination, though as yet that punishment has not been presented in writing. Superintendent Banda indicated this consequence in a public statement prior to the end of the testing window. Regardless of what, if any, disciplinary measures are leveled against teachers, a Seattle Public Schools task force will spend the next three months discussing the future of the MAP and other assessment programs in Seattle. The task force must make recommendations to Superintendent Banda by May.