Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Support the Seattle MAP Test Boycott

The teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle have said “enough is enough.”

They are standing up to this nation’s obsession with standardized testing.  

They are boycotting the MAP tests for being inaccurate, hurtful, and inequitable.

Most fundamentally, they are standing up for their students who deserve a rigorous, engaging education – not a curriculum dumbed-down by testing, test prep, and an addiction to data bits.

As a teacher, I am not opposed to being held accountable or assessing my students to gauge their understanding and growth as learners. I also believe that the broader community has the right to know how publicly-funded schools are doing.

But what I oppose – as do many other teachers – is this obsession with standardized testing that narrows the curriculum, consumes weeks of valuable class time, distorts teaching away from meaningful projects and learning, and in essence destroys the craft of teaching.

On Monday, the Seattle NAACP announced that it supported the boycott. According to news reports the NAACP said that the test does not reflect what students have learned in the classroom and could produce inequitable results when used to select students for Advanced Placement classes. They also said that the testing negatively impacts low-income students of color who can’t afford computers and Internet access at home.

The Seattle Education Association issued a solidarity statement with the Garfield teachers saying that for several years they had raised concerns about the MAP tests including:
  • The test does not align with state standards.
  • The test does not align with district curriculum.
  • The test takes valuable time away from student learning.
  • Many students do not take the test seriously.
  • The testing timeframe takes valuable time away from students in the school being able to access computer labs and libraries for other projects.
  • The data obtained is of minimal use to teachers in planning lessons and meeting individual student needs.
The boycotting teachers have listed fifteen reasons why the MAP test should be shelved.

 MAP (Measure of Academic Achievement) tests are used in districts throughout the nation, including the Milwaukee Public Schools. The tests are a source of deep concern to many teachers and parents. Why should four, five, and six year olds take computerized tests? Why aren’t the state standardized tests sufficient accountability measures? Why should school libraries and computer rooms be closed for weeks on end for testing three or four times a year?

On Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union issued a white paper, Debunkingthe Myths of Standardized Testing. Their paper can serve as a guide for parents, educators, and students throughout the country.

The Seattle teachers won’t be able to stop this testing craze alone. But their actions may act as a spark like the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins that inspired similar protests and contributed to the larger Civil Rights Movement.  

It’s now time for teacher unions, parent organizations, concerned citizens and pro-child policy makers to build a movement that will reign in the obsession with standardized testing and instead insist on accountability methods that encourage rigorous, engaging teaching that educates the whole child.

Our students deserve no less. 

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To see a copy of the student leaflet in support of the boycott, click here.

To sign a petition in support of the boycott, click here.

To get information about Rethinking Schools book, Pencils Down: Rethinking High Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools, click here.