January 15, 2013

Seattle school test revolt grows

Seattle Times -  The Seattle teachers union said  that it shares concerns the faculty at Garfield High has raised about district-required tests known as the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP.

Garfield teachers announced that no teachers at the school would be giving the MAP tests this winter, even though the district requires them to do so.  Nearly all the faculty signed a letter to the district saying they’re not against testing, but they think the MAP exams fail to help them or their students and waste valuable class time.

In a prepared statement, the union said it shares the Garfield teachers’ concerns, and has raised the same issue with school district officials over the past few years.  It also said it has been trying to get the district to consider alternatives to the MAP that are more closely aligned to the district’s curriculum and state learning standards.

The union listed its concerns as follows:

    The test does not line up with state standards.

    The test does not line up with district curriculum.

    The test takes valuable time away from student learning.

    Many students do not take the test seriously.

    The testing time frame 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.

Garfield High School PTSA Board Members -You may have seen in the news that the Garfield teachers have decided that they are no longer going to give the MAP tests to 9th grade students at Garfield. These are tests that are given three times during the 9th grade year to assess a student’s performance level in reading and math and their progress during the course of the year. These tests have nothing to do with a student’s grades or their progress toward graduation. The test results are just information for the teachers and the school district.

    However, because the tests have no consequences for the student, many students do not take them seriously. As a result the test results do not really measure a student’s knowledge level. Teachers also object because the tests are not connected to what is being taught in the classroom and they take up a lot of time. Further, the teachers are concerned that the test results might be used to evaluate teachers which they believe would be inappropriate. The teachers believe that the grades the students are earning in the classroom are much better measures of the student’s knowledge level and educational progress.

    The Garfield PTSA shares the concerns of the teachers at Garfield with the MAP testing and supports termination of these tests. There are many students who start the 9th grade who cannot perform 9th grade level math and English work. Some students are far behind. The real issue is what the school district is going to do, starting early in a student’s educational life, to help as many students as possible perform at grade level. A major effort to get students to grade level performance and to keep them there through graduation requires a focus and resources that we have not seen from the District or the Legislature. It is this focus on improving student achievement and providing the resources to accomplish it that deserves


Capt. America said...

Testing is an important teaching tool. The opponents of testing try to ignore that fact.

Tests should:

1. Be secure

2. Be made up individually and instantly on demand from an open database of millions of tested questions and answers.

3. Not take up class time because there should be no classes after first grade.
Teachers who are good in a classroom but not good with individual students can teach first grade, create programs of instruction, or find something else to do.

4. Have results, course grades, and even diplomas and degrees instantly recorded and printed for the student and available to others who might be required to have them.

Furthermore, no copyrights of test questions and answers should be allowed.
Student requirements should be the responsibility of local boards, not teachers or testers. Scholarship should be rewarded with a scale of privilege, status and cash. Substandard performance should attract appropriate attention and correction. There is nothing here beyond our present technology and ability, and such education reform would begin to save billions of dollars right away.

Anonymous said...

Tests are not a useful teaching tool, students can be evaluated in may ways that give a better comprehensive view of student learning. Students can keep a portfolio of learning, or do projects that actually engage the mind as a couple of examples.

Making tests for each child from a database of approved questions will either create a situation where the student knows nothing about the test questions asked so they fail completely, or they will have all the questions tailored to each student and each test will be a guaranteed A+. Neither of those situations offer a useful evaluation of student learning and are as bad as the current testing mess we are in.

Capt. America said...

Wise TA's in universities (like my daughter) have used online databases of questions and answers to make up exams for years now. The reality is that teachers are not very good at making up their own tests or evaluating students, and there is no reason why they should be good at that since their self-interest cannot correspond with the interests of their students. There are many pitfalls which can be avoided by using tested questions from an open database, and the advantage of real expertise should not be so casually dismissed.

The politics of bad schools consists in placing blame. There will be no general excellence until all blame can be justly and rightly placed on the students, where it ultimately must belong, because the students have the most to gain and the most to lose.