pencil filling out standardized test
Teachers at two Seattle high schools are standing up and saying "no" to a deeply flawed mandatory standardized test, the Measures of Academy Progress.

Teachers at Garfield High kicked off the rebellion when they said they would refuse to administer the MAP to their students. Then, 25 teachers at Ballard High followed suit with an anti-MAP statement. Both groups of teachers focus not on opposition to all testing, but to the MAP specifically, which they argue is too flawed to use. According to the Garfield teachers:

  • Seattle Public School staff has notified us that the test is not a valid test at the high school level. For these students, the margin of error is greater than the expected gain. We object to spending time, money, and staffing on an assessment even SPS agrees is not valid.
  • We are not allowed to see the contents of the test, but an analysis of the alignment between the Common Core and MAP shows little overlap. We object to our students being tested on content we are not expected to teach.
  • Ninth graders and students receiving extra support (ELL, SPED, and students in math support) are targets of the MAP test. These students are in desperate need of MORE instructional time. Instead, the MAP test subtracts many hours of class time from students’ schedules each year. If we were to participate this year, we would take 805 students out of class during 112 class periods. The amount of lost instructional time is astounding. On average students would EACH lose 320 minutes of instructional time. This is over 5 hours of CORE class time (language arts and math) that students are losing. We object to participating in stealing instructional time from the neediest students.
The Ballard teachers point out that:
The MAP test was purchased under corrupt crony-ist circumstances (Our former superintendent, while employed by Seattle Public Schools (SPS) sat on the corporation board of NWEA, the purveyor of the MAP test. This was undisclosed to her employer. The initial MAP test was purchased in a no-bid, non-competitive process.) [...]

The MAP test is not taken seriously by students, (They don’t need the results for graduation, for applications, for course credit, or any other purpose, so they routinely blow it off.)

While this opposition is specifically to the MAP and its many huge problems, the rebellion points to problems common to many standardized tests. As Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser, a social studies teacher at Garfield, wrote to the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss:
Standardized tests CAN be an okay way to assess student learning, but many of the tests that get used have serious flaws. These problems are in no way unique to the MAP test. There is considerable research that shows convincingly that high-stakes standardized tests often have cultural bias, including class and race biases. And so on.

The problem we have today is we don’t have a really good test that we can trust. Yet we need one, because of the advantages of standardization, including the cost and ease of administering them (compared to, say, debates). So we use the tests we have, despite their flaws.

The MAP appears to be a perfect storm of the problems with standardized testing: put in place through a corrupt, profit-driven process; with an unacceptably high margin of error; not measuring the things students are actually supposed to be learning; and taking needed time away from instructional time in order for students to take a test they don't take seriously. But while its problems may be especially large, they're not unique. What these teachers are doing in saying no to the MAP is brave, it's in their students' best interests, and it's yet another demonstration of how badly teachers' voices are needed in the broader education policy debate.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 10:04 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Teachers Lounge, Koscadia, and Daily Kos.

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