PROTESTS in a couple of Seattle schools over a standardized test may be inspired by legitimate concerns, but the protests are clearly igniting anti-testing fervor.
Teachers at Garfield High School and some teachers at Orca K-8 refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress, a test taken by 6.8 million students nationwide, including those in 180 Washington state school districts.
Debate over MAP was hashed out three years ago when teachers approved a labor contract allowing student test results from the MAP to be one of several measurements used in teacher evaluations. Up until the 2007-2008 school year, Seattle Public Schools did not have a districtwide assessment.
A better opportunity to address concerns about MAP would be during spring contract negotiations between the district and the Seattle Education Association. A districtwide review of the test is due to be completed in the spring. For those interested in real improvements in assessments, waiting until spring would produce a better-informed, less-inflamed discussion.
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Students need a robust accountability system. Seattle does this currently on three levels: daily and weekly assessments by teachers; annual assessments required by the state; and the MAP, a two- to three-times-a-year assessment meant to gauge the effectiveness of teaching and learning. Teachers are meant to use MAP results to guide decisions about lesson plans and interventions.
MAP, which students take on the computer, is designed to assess students at different levels of achievement — for example, a third-grader answering fifth-grade questions.
The emphasis on assessments is an appropriate response to well-documented examples of high-school students reading at elementary-school levels. Students graduated without the skills for a successful life. This was an injustice that fell heavily on low-income and minority students.
Angst over testing comes as the spotlight shifts from whether Johnny can read to the teacher paid to teach him to read. But MAP is not the culprit. Multiple measures of student progress can be used to evaluate teachers.
Seattle is part of a statewide pilot by the state Board of Education to align Washington’s assessments with new national standards. This is yet another opportunity for teachers to have input.