The widespread unhappiness from Seattle School District teachers and faculty members over the district's participation in MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing continues to gain steam - with the latest example of voiced concern coming via a letter signed by 21 staff members at Graham Hill Elementary.
In the letter - which comes on the heels of a similar letter signed by Ballard High School teachers proclaiming their intention to join the MAP boycott (which kicked off earlier this year at Garfield High School) - Graham Hill staffers state: "The MAP can reveal, with less than complete accuracy, who is excelling and who is struggling academically. This information is already known by teachers by the end of September. The MAP has such high costs, and we do not get a high return. "
The standardized testing rebellion in Seattle - which joins a similar effort in Chicago - is reaching national prominence. As the Washington Times reports, Wednesday has been proclaimed a "National Day of Action" in support of teachers in Seattle and elsewhere bucking the standardized testing trend, with participants encouraged to "hold meetings, rallies, take photos, and wear red to show support."
UPDATE: The NAACP has announced it is jumping into the MAP rebellion fray, holding a press conference today at 1 p.m. at the Garfield Community Center to voice its support of teachers fighting the test. In a press release announcing the decision (posted in full below), Seattle-King County NAACP President James Bible writes, "The NAACP has traditionally stood for equity and equality in education. We believe that the MAP test leads to inequitable results and opportunities. As a result, we believe that the test should be suspended and the teachers should be supported."
Here's the full letter from staffers at Graham Hill Elementary:
January 30, 2013
To the Seattle School Board and Superintendent Banda,
As Seattle Public School staff, we at Graham Hill Elementary stand in support of all school district staff choosing not to participate in the MAP. We are in agreement with the analysis and conclusion of the Garfield and Ballard HS staff. The MAP is a very limited tool with a very high cost.
The MAP can reveal, with less than complete accuracy, who is excelling and who is struggling academically. This information is already known by teachers by the end of September. The MAP has such high costs, and we do not get a high return.
This year we have elected to give the MAP twice rather than three times. As an elementary school with limited staff to set up and proctor this test, these tasks have always fallen to specialists, since they are not tied to a classroom. Until this year, that has meant that the most vulnerable students with special needs have taken a back seat for testing - for nine weeks. This year we have a computer lab teacher to set up and proctor the test, taking the computer literacy education we have lacked for years off of the table for six weeks. For all too many of our students, school is the one place where they have the opportunity to use a computer.
These are just some of the human costs. We all know that the monetary cost of this test is money desperately needed to enhance school programs. We urge the Board and superintendent to end the contract with NWEA. If we are going to use additional assessments beyond curriculum-based measurements, portfolio assessments, HSPE and MSP, then we need quality assessments that are aligned with our state's academic learning requirements. We strongly urge the Seattle School Board to direct District staff to discontinue the MAP and consult with teachers to find more appropriate and accurate measures of academic progress.
21 members of Graham Hill Staff
And here's the NAACP press release:
After talking to number of administrators, teachers and education experts, the NAACP has decided to support teachers that have made the decision to take a stand against MAP testing. The MAP test does not reflect what students have learned over the course of a current school year. The test questions do not reflect the core curriculum that teachers within the district are encouraged or required to follow. A student that has done particularly well during the year in relation to the course work that is actually taught may do poorly on the MAP test due to no fault of his or her own. This creates an environment in which students that are putting their best foot forward may experience a potentially devastating self-esteem set back that could damage their future educational goals. It seems that success in the MAP test may be more reflective of the educational and/or economic successes of the child's parents.
The NAACP has also heard that many schools within the district are using the MAP test to assess which students should be placed into Advance Placement courses. This sort of tracking could have a devastating impact on children of color and children that find themselves living in poverty. Children who's parents may not have the resources to provide extracurricular learning activities may fair worse on this test than children who's parents have the education and/or resources to assist their children. This is an inequitable result. Advanced placement decisions should be based upon the academic work and success in relation to information that is actually taught to students.
When it comes to education, every moment of instruction time is critical. Because the MAP test is computerized, computer labs in Seattle Schools are often closed to teachers who are trying to teach their children the core curriculum for three to four weeks. This level of academic interruption is unacceptable.
It is an unfortunate reality that many students still do not have access to computers and other forms of valuable technology within their home. For some, the school computer lab is one of the few places where students have the opportunity to develop technical skills that will be critical to future academic and economic success. Three to four week closures of computer labs over the course of a school year will likely have an adverse impact on many students who may not have access to such resources elsewhere.
The NAACP has traditionally stood for equity and equality in education. We believe that the MAP test leads to inequitable results and opportunities. As a result, we believe that the test should be suspended and the teachers should be supported.
Attorney at Law
President Seattle King County NAACP