Teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle Say No!

Seattle School Challanges Pentagon ASVAB TestingBy unanimous vote, the entire faculty at Garfield High School in Seattle voted not to administer the MAP test of reading and mathematics.

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the faculty of an entire school refused to give mandated tests.

The action of the Garfield High School faculty could have national ramifications because it shows other teachers that there is strength in unity and that they do not have to endure unethical demands with passivity and resignation.

For their courage, their integrity, and their intelligence, I add the faculty of Garfield High School to the honor roll as champions of public education.

The teachers agreed that the tests are a waste of time and money. Students don’t take them seriously because they don’t count toward their grades. But teachers will be evaluated based on the results of these tests that students don’t take seriously. Even the organization that created the tests say they should not be used for teacher evaluation, but the district requires them anyway.

I hope that the example set by Garfield High School will resonate in school districts across the United States and around the world. High-stakes testing is bad for students, bad for teachers, and bad for education.

This is the statement by the teachers of Garfield High School:

SEATTLE – In perhaps the first instance anywhere in the nation, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School will announce this afternoon their refusal to administer a standardized test that students in other high schools across the district are scheduled to take in the first part of January.  Known as the MAP test, it purports to evaluate student progress and skill in reading and math. The teachers contend that it wastes time, money, and precious school resources.

“Our teachers have come together and agree that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,” says Kris McBride, who serves as Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield.  “Additionally, students don’t take it seriously.  It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”

McBride explained that the MAP test, which stands for Measure of Academic Progress, is administered two to three times each year to 9th grade students as well as those receiving extra support services.  The students are told the test will have no impact on their grades or class standing, and, because of this, students tend to give it little thought to the test and hurry through it.  In addition, there seems to be little overlap between what teachers are expected to teach (state and district standards) and what is measured on the test.

Despite this flaw, McBride states, results of the MAP tests will be used by district officials to help evaluate the effectiveness of instructors who give the test. “Our teachers feel strongly that this type of evaluative tool is unfair based on the abundance of problems with the exam, the content, and the statistical insignificance of the students’ scores,” she says.

Refusing to administer a district-mandated test is not a decision the school’s teachers made casually, or without serious internal discussion.

“Those of us who give this test have talked about it for several years,” explained Mallory Clarke, Garfield’s Reading Specialist. “When we heard that district representatives themselves reported that the margin of error for this test is greater than an individual student’s expected score increase, we were appalled!”

After the affected faculty decided unanimously to make a stand against the MAP test, they told the rest of Garfield’s faculty of their decision. In a December 19 vote, the rest of the school’s teachers voted overwhelmingly to support their colleagues’ refusal to administer the test. Not a single teacher voted against the action. Four abstained from voting. the rest voted to support it.

“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry.“I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class– and we have great classes here at Garfield. I know students who just go through the motions when taking the test, did it as quickly as possible so that they could do something more useful with their time.”  History teacher Jesse Hagopian said, “What frustrates me about the MAP test is that the computer labs are monopolized for weeks by the MAP test, making research projects very difficult to assign.” Hagopian added “This especially hurts students who don’t have a computer at home.”

The $4 million MAP test was purchased by Seattle Public Schools during the tenure of former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who left her position in 2011 and sadly passed away in 2012. Goodloe-Johnson sat on the board of directors of Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that markets the MAP test. At the time, some pointed out this potential conflict of interest for Goodloe-Johnson, but the district went ahead with the purchase nonetheless.  NWEA itself warns that districts should not use the map test to evaluate teachers.  We teachers of Garfield High School believe that the NWEA is right—this test should not be used to evaluate teachers.  For secondary teachers the test cannot provide useful information about students’ skills and progress.  Still worse, this test should not rob students of precious class time away from instruction. “We believe the negative aspects of the MAP test so outweigh the positive ones that we are willing to take this step,” said Language Arts teacher Adam Gish.

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