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May 13, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Starting next fall, MAP tests will be optional for Seattle high schools

High schools in Seattle won’t have to give the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests starting next fall, the latest development in the testing controversy that has drawn national attention after starting in January at Garfield High School.

After Garfield teachers sparked a protest that spread to six other schools locally, the school district scaled back the number of ninth-graders who must take MAP reading and math tests.  In an announcement today, Superintendent Jose Banda said high schools won’t have to give the MAP at all.

If high schools don’t use the MAP, however, Banda will require them to come up with an alternative way to monitor the progress of students who don’t pass the state’s once-a-year reading and math exams.

Banda’s decision closely follows a recommendations made by a 29-member committee of parents, teachers, administrators and other community members.  The district appointed that committee to look closely at the MAP and help Banda decide whether to continue using it and, if so, how.

The task force recommended dropping the MAP in high school, where most ninth-graders had been taking MAP reading and math tests two to three times a year.  But it backed continued use of the MAP in elementary and middle schools, as does Banda, saying the tests provide data that the district needs to help its most vulnerable students.

“Overwhelmingly, I heard from elementary school teachers that they use the MAP and it serves a great purpose for them in supporting student learning,” Banda said.

Banda’s decision probably won’t satisfy hundreds of teachers who are boycotting the MAP tests, refusing to help administer them in their schools.  Most are from high schools, but some are from two elementary schools – ORCA K-8 and Thornton Creek Elementary.

The protesting teachers say the MAP tests have little value for them or their students, monopolize school libraries and computer labs for weeks, and aren’t closely tied to what they’re supposed to be teaching. They stress that they’re not against testing per se, just the MAP.

This winter, parents joined the protest, too, and 600 students did not take the MAP because they or their parents asked that they be excused.  Spring testing is still underway.

Despite the protest, schools are still giving the tests by using administrators or parents or others to proctor the exams.

Banda’s decision covers the upcoming 2013-14 school year.   He plans to appoint a new task force to help him decide what to do after that.  That task force, he said, will look closely at some of the new tests that are now under development.

Banda defended the MAP, noting that a survey done by the city’s teachers union showed a majority of the 2,126 respondents find the MAP effective or somewhat effective in identifying students who need extra help, and in measuring students’ academic growth.

But the survey also showed that fewer than 30 percent of the respondents thought that the MAP’s benefits were worth the time it takes to give the tests.

Taken on computer, MAP tests are designed to measure academic skills independent of grade level.  The idea, in other words, is to find where students’ skills lie rather than determine whether a fourth-grader can pass a fourth-grade test.

In a letter to staff Monday, Banda also said  MAP testing will be required in the fall and spring, not winter and spring, as was the case this school year.

He also stressed that MAP tests should never be the sole factor in determining whether students are eligible for any particular program or class.  Banda acknowledged that the MAP had been used that way in the past, although he declined to give details.

“The bottom line: We just don’t want it to be the sole thing to determine student placement,” he said.

He also said teachers will receive more training in how to use the MAP, and the district will work to make sure schools have the necessary technology.

0 Comments | More in Education | Topics: Jose Banda, Measures of Academic Progress, Seattle Public Schools

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