Jan 25 2013

Colorlines: Seattle Teachers Hold Steady to Boycott as Testing Backlash Grows

With more Seattle public schools joining the standardized testing boycott which has flung his district into the national spotlight, Seattle Public Schools chief Jose Banda announced on Wednesday that he would be organizing a task force to investigate possible alternatives to his district’s testing regime and the MAP test in question. The new task force, formed immediately, “will have the opportunity to explore and review the strengths and limitations of the MAP assessment, and will consider potential alternatives to future district testing programs,” Banda said in a statement.

But this isn’t what he told Seattle teachers. On Wednesday, Banda issued a directive informing teachers that those who do not administer the MAP would be considered insubordinate and face suspension, with ten days of unpaid leave.

It was not the response that teachers were looking for. “It was deeply disheartening,” Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian told Colorlines. “I was deeply saddened that our superintendent would take that tone of disrespect and threats to the people who are the backbone of his education system.”

It is but the latest chapter in a fight over a testing-driven school reform movement which has been brewing for years, and which is hardly confined to Seattle.

Nearly three weeks ago the entire teaching staff at Garfield High School publicly refused to administer the so-called MAP test. They came to their position after a unanimous all staff vote, and Garfield’s parent teacher association and student government have both stood by Garfield teachers. The school community has myriad frustrations with the test. The test, used ostensibly as a diagnostic tool to assess where students stand, is also used punitively to evaluate teachers. That is, in keeping with a growing national trend, part of Seattle teachers’ evaluations are based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. In Seattle, students’ poor MAP scores can trigger a series of accountability mechanisms for teachers. But the MAP is not tied to students’ grades or graduation requirements and so, while the test holds high stakes for teachers, students easily dismiss the test.

Read the full story here.

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