Teachers Face Suspension for M.A.P. Protest

Sentiments toward the Measures of Academy Progress (MAP) have been made very clear: the Garfield High School teachers do not like it.

In January, Garfield High School teachers voted unanimously to refuse administering the standardized test to their students, saying that it is a waste of time and money.

They argue the test fails to accurately measure student learning since it does not align with the classroom curriculum. Since teachers do not ever get to see the test, they are unsure how to help their students in figure out what their scores mean.

Students and parents do not think this test is meaningful if it does not count toward students’ graduation or grades and there is no information on how to decipher what the scores mean.

Following the teachers’ announced refusal to administer the test, boycotters have since received support from parents and students both locally
and nationally.

Despite protest, teachers were still asked to meet their deadline of administering all tests by Feb. 28, an extension from the original date,
Feb. 22.

“We think [the teachers] have some legitimate concerns regarding the MAP test and how it informs their individual practice, but at the same time, we at Seattle Public Schools, we use multiple forms of data to help guide not only classroom instruction, but how we measure and track progress across our schools over time,” said Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Partnerships Clover Codd, who works closely with Superintendent
José Banda.

The Garfield High School testing coordinator Kris McBride knew her teachers were going to boycott the test, so she went to her principal to let him know.

“The district said to my principal, you have to find a way to make this test happen. And so they told my principal to force the teachers to do it and there was this implied threat of a 10-day suspension if teachers said no,” said McBride.

Administrators at Garfield High School did not want to put teachers in a situation where they had to face that 10-day suspension, so they decided to step in. McBride handed them the list of all the students who had to take the test and they handled it from there.

“It was really disheartening because our administrators came in and took students out. I happened to be giving a real test that did count towards my students’ grade and [students] were removed from the class and some didn’t go and some did. And that kind of threw everything into a whirlwind,” said English teacher Kathryn McCormick.

For McCormick, the decision to forcibly administer the test did not make sense.

“I have no idea who would run a business in a way where the people who are most highly qualified are all lining up and saying ‘this doesn’t work’ and those bosses would still insist ‘well, we’ll do it anyway…’ That was one of the worst days of my 26 years in teaching,” McCormick said.

Although tests were given despite the fight against it, the support for the teachers was still there. Around 300 students did not take the test because their parents decided to opt their kids out of it.

“…That’s their right to do that,” McBride said. “They can opt their student out of any testing, especially one like this that isn’t required for graduation and has nothing to do with students’ grade. All it does is take away class time.”

With so many students who did not take the test, it seems that the decision to make the students take the test was unnecessary to some.

“The original test is unreliable but this test is going to be completely unusable. They don’t have a wide sample, many of my students, walked out and walked right into my classroom within five minutes so you know what they did in there,” McCormick said.

Currently, Superintendent Banda is taking a collaborative approach to improve testing. A task force on assessment and measuring progress was formed, which includes teachers, parents, students and community-based organizations that can make recommendations to the superintendent on next steps to take.

“The most important thing to us is we have an obligation to ensure that they’re learning the state standards and that they’re progressing in their learning and that we’re providing the appropriate support or perhaps accelerated academic experiences for students. And that’s really our intention here and that is our hope,” Codd said.

Still, the decision to administer the MAP during this time was unsettling to teachers and parents.

Phil Sherburne, Garfield High School PTSA president, thinks the superintendent was caught in a power struggle. And he isn’t the only who
says that.

“I think a new superintendant is worried that he’s going to be looked down as weak if he listens to the people ‘under’ him,” McCormick said. “I don’t understand this American model where the workers call attention to a problem and it’s considered weakness in a leader to attend to that problem. My understanding in some other business models, they honor the workers. Here, I think it’s looked at as weak. And so I think the district is forcing the test simply because they fear if they don’t, teachers will get out of hand or think they have some authority they shouldn’t think they have. Why else would they?”

The 10-day suspension has been lifted from teachers, but consequences are yet to be determined and will be handled on a case-to-case basis. Though the teachers will face consequences, they remain strong in their MAP boycott.

“I’m in a tough spot because I’m the testing coordinator,” McBride said. “I’m not one of the classroom teachers. But I’m really proud of my teachers for standing up for what they think is right for their kids. This is all about what they think is best for students…and I think it’s a pretty bold stand that they’re taking. I’m not one of them, but I’m certainly proud to stand beside them.”

The superintendent will continue to listen and work with his task force, and, if nothing changes, teachers are planning to boycott again during the spring MAP tests.

Bianca may be reached at [email protected]