Friday, January 11, 2013

They'll Refuse To Waste Students' Time

Our family has a lot of friends whose children attend Garfield High School in Seattle, a large, well-regarded public school. Yesterday, the teachers there unanimously voted to refuse to administer our state's standardized test this semester.

I've written a lot here about the insidiousness of standardized testing and the entire corporate education reform effort, which is really a thinly disguised attempt to bust unions, de-professionalize teaching, and privatize our public schools (Here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here . . . you get the idea. If you really want to go deep, click on the "education reform" tag at the bottom of this post or under the "topics" heading in the right hand column to read everything I've written over the years.) 

I applaud these teachers and am proud they are in my city. We don't have the deep pockets of the other side, but we do have reason and research. None of what the corporate reformers are pushing, from standardized testing, to standardized curricula, to charter schools, has ever been demonstrated to improve education. In fact, if anything, the data suggests that this corporate reform agenda impoverishes education.

Push-back from teachers, parents and students (all indications are that the Garfield student body supports their teachers) is how we will prevail. Across the country parents are choosing to opt their kids out of this testing and teachers are rebelling. Please parents, support your children and their teachers. Our schools, of course, could always be made better, but this is the opposite of what research tells us is the way to do it.

I stand behind the Garfield teachers.

M E D I A   A D V I S O R Y
T H U R S D A Y,   J A N U A R Y   1 0 ,   2 0 1 3
Teachers at Garfield High Say MAP Test is Counterproductive,
Say They’ll Refuse to Waste Students’ Time, School’s Resources
What: Press conference to announce Garfield High School’s opposition to the MAP test
When: Thursday, January 10, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Garfield High School (400 23rd Avenue Seattle, WA 98122) in Room 206
For more information:
Jesse Hagopian, Teacher Garfield HS, 206-962-1685,
SEATTLE – In perhaps the first instance anywhere in the nation, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School will announce this afternoon their refusal to administer a standardized test that students in other high schools across the district are scheduled to take in the first part of January. Known as the MAP test, it purports to evaluate student progress and skill in reading and math. The teachers contend that it wastes time, money, and precious school resources.
            “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,” says Kris McBride, who serves as Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield.  “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.”
            McBride explained that the MAP test, which stands for Measure of Academic Progress, is administered two to three times each year to 9th grade students as well as those receiving extra support services.  The students are told the test will have no impact on their grades or class standing, and, because of this, students tend to give it little thought to the test and hurry through it.  In addition, there seems to be little overlap between what teachers are expected to teach (state and district standards) and what is measured on the test. 
            Despite this flaw, McBride states, results of the MAP tests will be used by district officials to help evaluate the effectiveness of instructors who give the test. “Our teachers feel strongly that this type of evaluative tool is unfair based on the abundance of problems with the exam, the content, and the statistical insignificance of the students’ scores,” she says.
            Refusing to administer a district-mandated test is not a decision the school’s teachers made casually, or without serious internal discussion.
            “Those of us who give this test have talked about it for several years,” explained 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!” 
            After the affected faculty decided unanimously to make a stand against the MAP test, they told the rest of Garfield’s faculty of their decision. In a December 19 vote, the rest of the school’s teachers voted overwhelmingly to support their colleagues’ refusal to administer the test. Not a single teacher voted against the action. Four abstained from voting. the rest voted to support it.
            “We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry.“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.”  History teacher Jesse Hagopian said, “What frustrates me about the MAP test is that the computer labs are monopolized for weeks by the MAP test, making research projects very difficult to assign.” Hagopian added “This especially hurts students who don’t have a computer at home.”
            The $4 million MAP test was purchased by Seattle Public Schools during the tenure of former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who left her position in 2011 and sadly passed away in 2012. Goodloe-Johnson sat on the board of directors of Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that markets the MAP test. At the time, some pointed out this potential conflict of interest for Goodloe-Johnson, but the district went ahead with the purchase nonetheless.  NWEA itself warns that districts should not use the map test to evaluate teachers. 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.
#     #     #

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share -->


Barbara Zaborowski said...

I have been telling people about this all day. Kudos to the teachers of Garfield High!

Helena Roth said...

This discussion is ongoing in most of the world, and I find it heartwarming and reassuring to see the guts of these teachers and school leaders. They are taking an initiative, refusing to waste time and energy, on stuff they know won't benefit anyone (except perhaps the state/government?!).
I wish and hope to see initiatives like this spread more, and that teachers start to discuss this type of issues more with the parents of their pupils, since many parents aren't knowledgeable enough about the latest research etc.
We must discuss the question that Seth Godin often brings forth: What is school for?
And I want to add a follow up question: Where do the kids come into the picture?

Kudos Garfield High, I totally agree with Barbara above!

/Helena, boardmember Barnverket in Sweden