Parents Begin to Join Test-Boycotting Teachers in Seattle

The Seattle Times reports that with a continuing deadlock between teachers and Seattle's Superintendent, about 100 of Garfield High School's 9th graders have now begun taking the disputed test. As Linda Shaw reports, teachers at Garfield have been boycotting the required Measures of Academic Progress tests for over a month. Superintendent Jose Banda has ordered the school's administration to find a way to give the tests without the teachers' cooperation.

The test boycott has drawn national attention since it began in early January. The Chicago Teachers' Union and many other activists and writers have spoken out in support of Garfield staff. Teachers say that the test is useless and takes up school resources.

Teachers say the tests' margin of error is greater than the number of points that the average ninth-grader is expected to gain, that the tests cover material they are not expected to teach, that students who are struggling must take the tests more often even though they shouldn't miss class time, and that giving the MAP tests ties up Garfield's computer labs for weeks.

Also at stake is the role the MAP's standardized scores might play in teacher evaluations, a subject that has many states' teachers up in arms. The faculty at Garfield and some other Seattle-area schools do not want to cooperate in generating scores that might be used to downgrade some of their jobs.

Superintendent Jose Banda has been reluctant to suspend or otherwise discipline the boycotting teachers. As he negotiated with teachers through Monday, he said that he will not punish teachers in ways that might hurt education.

Teachers who refuse to give the test will face some discipline, but Banda told them Monday that they will not be suspended for two weeks without pay, a punishment the district has given in the past to teachers who refused to give state-required exams.

"I don't know that taking them out of the classroom for 10 days is necessarily going to be beneficial to them or their students," Banda said.

Banda asked the teachers to comply with the testing for now, and in exchange, the city district would set up a task force to reconsider all testing. In Monday's meeting, the teachers said no.

This week, they upped the ante by informing parents that even if the school found a way to give the tests, parents could exempt their children from taking these tests with a note of written permission. Although the president of Garfield's PTSA said he regretted the power struggle, the PTSA organized an information campaign asking parents to support the boycotting teachers by exempting their students. When the school's principal and staff began to give the MAP test, they found that only some of the students could participate.

On Tuesday, only 97 of the roughly 400 ninth-graders who were supposed to take the MAP reading test did so, said Garfield Principal Ted Howard. The other 300, he said, had their parents' permission to be excused.

While some parents and many teachers called Banda's decision to force testing "callous," Banda said that he believed many teachers did not understand how the MAP test is used. He called the test useful and said that it provides good feedback on what children are learning. He still hopes that a peaceful agreement can be reached.

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