'Scrap the MAP!'... Seattle teachers refuse to administer a punitive standardized test in first teacher resistance in a decade... Investigation shows that the contract was corruptly awarded -- as a no bid deal -- by the former Seattle schools supt.

SEATTLE. January 14, 2013. Garfield High School teachers in Seattle have made a collective New Year's resolution to "scrap the MAP" -- and support for their cause is growing. The Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) is a test implemented throughout the Seattle Public School District (SPSD) for three years. It is supposed to chart student academic growth in math and language arts. [Substance editor's note: The MAP is also being used in Chicago and across the nation, with no compilation of the total cost of the MAP to school districts, large and small...].

Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle held a press conference to explain why they are refusing to administer the MAP tests. Photo courtesy Gabriel Spitzer, superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson signed the $4 million contract for the test with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) in 2009 while she also sat on the association's board of directors. This was undisclosed at the time, something which state auditors previously said was an ethics violation. The initial MAP test was purchased in a no-bid, non-competitive process.

The test has fallen under widespread and persistent criticism by teachers across the district who say the MAP isn't aligned with state standards they are expected to teach to. The MAP test also doesn't affect student grades or chances of graduation, which means students don't take the test seriously. This is particularly irksome to teachers because the MAP is used to calculate "student growth"--as a part of evaluating the effectiveness of the teachers who give the test.

"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," explained Kris McBride, who serves as Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield, in a statement. "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."

"Those of us who give this test have talked about [refusing to administer it] for several years," added 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!"

According to the Garfield teachers, even the NWEA warns that school districts should not use the MAP exam to evaluate teachers. In a statement, the teachers explained: 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.

On January 9, 19 Garfield High teachers held a press conference after school hours in a media- and supporter-packed classroom, where they announced they would refuse to administer the MAP. The decision was made after a nearly unanimous vote of teaching staff at the high school.

Support quickly sprang up around the district and the country, from the Garfield Parent Teacher Association to Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of Education-turned-outspoken opponent of corporate school "reform." [1]

Students also expressed their support for the teachers. Garfield High student body President Obadiah Stephens-Terry said in a statement: We really think our teachers are making the right decision. 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.

On January 11, teachers at nearby Ballard High School signed a letter in support of their Garfield colleagues [2], with 25 Ballard teachers joining the pledge to refuse to give the MAP test.

The district has said it will decide on disciplinary action on a case-by-case basis for teachers who do not administer the MAP test. In the coming days and weeks, the level of public support teachers receive for taking this courageous stand will be key to making sure they are not subject to punishment by the district.

Social Equality Educators [3], a rank-and-file caucus of activist educators, is organizing support for teachers across the district who are choosing to join Garfield and Ballard teachers.

As the Garfield teachers summed up in a statement: We are not troublemakers nor do we want to impede the high functioning of our school. We are professionals who care deeply about our students and cannot continue to participate in a practice that harms our school and our students...We feel strongly that we must decline to give the MAP test even one more time.

What you can do

Sign an online petition [4] in support of Seattle teachers who are refusing to administer the MAP test.

Visit the "Solidarity with Garfield High School testing boycott" [5] Facebook page for news and information about the campaign.







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Teachers refuse to give standardized test at Seattle high schools — Update. Posted by Valerie Strauss on January 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

Nearly all of the teachers at a Seattle high school have decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they say, the exams don’t evaluate learning and are a waste of time.

Now teachers at a second Seattle school, Ballard High, said they were joining the boycott, according to the Seattle Education website.

Almost all of the teachers and staff at Garfield High signed a letter explaining that they oppose the MAP because it is a flawed test that students don’t take seriously and that is being used by administrators to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which it was not designed.

According to Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, an organization devoted to stopping the misuse of standardized tests, the boycott is the first such school-wide effort in the country in a decade. He said that boycotts have been successful in the past, including one in Britain that led the government to overhaul its testing regime, and England and Wales has seen a reduction in the amount of tests students take.

The boycotts are part of a growing grass-roots revolt against the excessive use of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers, schools, districts and states. The high-stakes testing era began a decade under No Child Left Behind, and critics say that the exams are being inappropriately used and don’t measure a big part of what students learn.

Parents have started to opt out of having their children take the exams; school boards have approved resolutions calling for an end to test-based accountability systems; thousands of people have signed a national resolution protesting high-stakes tests; superintendents have spoken out, and so have teachers. It has been building momentum in the last year, since Robert Scott, then the commissioner of education in Texas, said publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be.

The Seattle Times reported that district administrators released a statement defending the test, saying that it does help them evaluate student achievement but that the MAP, along with all tests that students take, are under review.

The Garfield teachers have started a petition on asking school authorities to stop administering the MAP. Here’s a statement from the Garfield teachers:

We, the Garfield teachers, respectfully decline to give the MAP test to any of our students. We have had different levels of experiences with MAP in our varied careers, have read about it, and discussed it with our colleagues. After this thorough review, we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot in good conscience subject our students to this test again. This letter is an objection to the MAP test specifically and particularly to its negative impact on our students. Here are our reasons:

*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.

*In an appeal of the Board’s 2010 decision to renew the MAP contract, a parent group raised concerns about the negative impact of this test “on non-English speakers, Special Education students, and minority and low income children.” These concerns were never addressed nor were the claims refuted. Imagine a native Somali student with limited English skills, sitting in front of a computer taking an evaluative reading test that will no doubt be confusing and overwhelming to the student. The test is supposed to determine the student’s reading level, but without taking into account the student’s language challenge or the student’s limited time in the United States, which makes it almost impossible to understand the context of some passages. For these students and our students with IEPs, the test does actual harm. The students feel stupid yet are being forced to take a test that has NO benefit to them or their educational goals. We object to a test that may violate the rights of groups of students for whom schooling already constitutes an uphill battle.

*In addition to students losing class time to take the test, our computer labs are clogged for weeks with test taking and cannot be used for other educational purposes. For example, students who have a research project no longer have access to the computers they need to further their exploration into their research topic. This especially hurts students without computers at home. We object to our educational resources being monopolized by a test we cannot support.

*We see that our students do not take the test seriously as they know that it will not directly impact their class grade or graduation status. They approach it less and less seriously the more times they take it. Therefore, we see achievement scores go down after instruction. We object to spending scarce resources on a test that is peripheral to our students’ education.

*The MAP test was originally introduced by then superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson while she was a board member of the Northwest Evaluation Association, the company that sells the MAP. When Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was fired, the MAP somehow survived the housecleaning. We object to having to give a test whose existence in our district is the result of scandal.

*Even the NWEA itself, the parent company to MAP, has advised districts to carefully restrict the use of the test and its results. NWEA also cautions to ensure 100% random selection of students enrolled in any course if the test is used for evaluation and to take into consideration statistical error in designing evaluation policies. NWEA says that problems become “particularly profound at the high school level.” None of these or other criteria urged by NWEA has been met. We object to being evaluated by a test whose author suggests extreme caution in its use and warns against valid legal action if the test is used in personnel decisions.

*The Seattle Education Association passed a resolution condemning the MAP test that reads, “Whereas testing is not the primary purpose of education…Whereas the MAP was brought into Seattle Schools under suspicious circumstances and conflicts of interest…Whereas the SEA has always had the position of calling for funding to go to classroom and student needs first…Be it Resolved that…the MAP test should be scrapped and/or phased out and the resources saved be returned to the classroom.” We object to having to give it after such an opinion from our collective voice has been registered.

We are not troublemakers nor do we want to impede the high functioning of our school. We are professionals who care deeply about our students and cannot continue to participate in a practice that harms our school and our students. We want to be able to identify student growth and determine if our practice supports student learning. We wish to be evaluated in a way so that we can continue to improve our practice, and we wish for our colleagues who are struggling to be identified and either be supported or removed. The MAP test is not the way to do any of these things. We feel strongly that we must decline to give the MAP test even one more time.


Op-ed: Why Garfield teachers boycotted the MAP test

Garfield teachers believe students should be evaluated based on what they are learning in the classroom, writes guest columnist Jesse Hagopian.

By Jesse Hagopian

Special to The Times

Jesse Hagopian



I agree. Teachers should not have to administer an ethics violation. Standardized tests... (January 17, 2013, by Willemh) MORE

I used to be a big supporter of the MAPS test. In fact, based on what it was supposed... (January 17, 2013, by Caveshadow) MORE

I would like to offer a glimpse at what teachers from the entire district think of MAP... (January 17, 2013, by burb) MORE

Read all 262 comments Post a comment

WALKING the same halls once trod by Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Bruce Lee, Brandon Roy and Macklemore makes teaching at Garfield High School exhilarating.

When I look at the students in my history classes, I see young people who may be the next to turn the world inside out. Garfield has a long tradition of cultivating abstract thinking, lyrical innovation, trenchant debate, civic leadership, moral courage and myriad other qualities for which our society is desperate, yet which cannot be measured, or inspired, by bubbling answer choice “E.”

Garfield teachers voted last week, without a single “no” vote, to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test on ethical and professional grounds. Our student government and PTSA both voted to support us.

Why did we take this stand, now, against this test?

I graduated from Garfield in 1997, went to college, did Teach for America in Washington, D.C., came home, got my masters in teaching at the University of Washington and returned to teach in the “Dog House.”

The standardized tests I took as a student at Garfield were moments of great misery, because they made me feel unintelligent. I had talents, but there were no test questions on whether I could play piano, coach my little sister in pitching, or identify a problem in my community that needed action and write a letter to the editor about it.

Seattle’s ninth- and 10th-grade students already take five state-required standardized tests, with 11th- and 12th-graders taking three. Seattle Public Schools staff admitted to a Garfield teacher the MAP test is not valid at the high-school level, because the margin of error is greater than expected gains.

In addition, teachers are forbidden to see contents of the MAP test so they can’t prepare students. Teachers who have looked over the shoulders of students taking the test can tell you that it asks questions students are not expected by state standards to learn until later grades.

This test especially hurts students receiving extra academic support — English-language learners and those enrolled in special education. These are the kids who lose the most each time they waste five hours on the test. Our computer labs are commandeered for weeks when the MAP is on, so students working on research projects can’t get near them. The students without home computers are hurt the most.

Students don’t take the MAP seriously because they know their scores don’t factor into their grades or graduation status. They approach it less seriously each time they take it, so their scores decline. Our district uses MAP scores in teacher evaluations, even though the MAP company recommends against using it to evaluate teacher effectiveness and it’s not mandated in our union contract.

Former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson brought the MAP to Seattle at a cost of some $4 million while she was serving on the board of the company that sells it. The state auditor called this an ethics violation because she did not disclose it until after the district approved the company’s contract. After Goodloe-Johnson was fired, the MAP somehow survived the housecleaning. Garfield teachers refuse to administer an ethics violation.

We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress. We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom. Some of my colleagues would propose replacing the MAP with a test that is aligned to our curriculum.

Many others, myself included, believe that portfolios, which collect student work and demonstrate yearlong student growth, would be a good replacement for the MAP. Such assessments would be directly tied to our curriculum and would demonstrate improvement over time rather than a random snapshot of a student on one particular day.

America faces incredible challenges: endless war, climate change and worldwide economic implosion. Our kids will need both traditional academic abilities and innovative critical-thinking skills to solve these real problems. If we inundate our students with standardized testing year-round, these larger lessons are lost.

Garfield’s teachers are preparing students for the real-life tests they will face, and reject the computer multiple-choice rituals that fail to measure grade-level content — not to mention character, commitment, courage or talent.

Jesse Hagopian has taught in Seattle Public Schools since 2006, serves as the Black Student Union’s faculty adviser and is the recipient of the Abe Keller Peace Education Award.


January 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM

By: Gabriel Spitzer

Garfield photo credit

Hi -- I don't mind if you use my photo, but please credit KPLU.

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