I ask because a group of teachers in the Seattle area has decided to boycott the state’s mandated Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.
Here’s the story, from the Seattle Times:
Eleven years ago, Rachel Eells saw value in the tests that she and other teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School are now refusing to give their students.
Back then, she was a new middle-school teacher in the Highline School District, and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) helped her identify the strengths and weaknesses of her students in reading.
But Eells grew disenchanted with the MAP, saying it was, at best, a rough diagnostic tool that often left her with more questions than answers, especially with her older students. She couldn’t tell why, for example, a student would do well on literary terms one time, then poorly the next.
So when a Garfield colleague asked Eells last month whether she would consider boycotting the MAP, she said yes so quickly the colleague paused, a little taken aback.
But Eells didn’t need time to weigh the pros and cons.
“I don’t want to spend my time or my students’ time on something that’s not useful or beneficial,” she said.
Since Garfield teachers announced their boycott nearly two weeks ago, they have been hailed as heroes by those concerned about the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, although the teachers have been careful to say they’re not protesting all tests, just this one.
Are they heroes?
I’m not so sure. Here’s an op-ed, also from the Seattle Times, that reflects my concern with the boycott and indeed with many of the anti-testing crusades:
Make no mistake,teachers make worthwhile points about the shortcomings of MAP, some outlined in this compelling op-ed. But leaders of the boycott offer nothing to take its place.
Nada. Zip. Zulch. Not even a vague notion of how to measure broadly the progress of academically struggling students while looking for a successor to MAP.
A teacher quoted in this story said she relies more on her classroom-based assessments than on the MAP. Can every teacher not only say the same, but prove it with a direct connection between their assessments, a plan of action for struggling learners and growth in student achievement? This is after all supposed to be a boycott inspired by concern about students.
As Banda told the Times Editorial Board this afternoon, “We owe it to our students to have assessments.”
This afternoon, I asked Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, what test teachers would prefer over MAP. He said teachers want a more relevant assessment and one that actually tells them something. I agree. What’s the name of that test so the district can bring it to Seattle? Knapp said he doesn’t pretend to know what’s out there and spoke about creating new tests, rather than buying them. Meanwhile, students are assessed based on what? If every student emerged from Seattle high schools with the basic skills necessary, this would not be an issue, but too many don’t so not having any local assessment is a non-starter. (The district also uses state assessments.)
You can follow this link to another editorial, this time in support of the teachers.
I’d like to see teachers more actively involved in designing assessments . . . but allowing each teacher to design his or her own seems very problematic. What if the teacher deems a skill unimportant that school districts, or parents, or legislators think students should master? How can results be compared? And – ah, here’s the rub – how can individualized assessments shed any light on teacher performance?