Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Take it to the Seattle school board

Teachers in Seattle’s Garfield High School have unanimously decided to refuse to administer their district’s required standardized test (the “MAP”), saying it “corrupts teaching and learning.” If there was ever a standardized test that deserved to be boycotted, it’s this one. Teachers say that it is not aligned with the district’s curriculum, sometimes testing topics that the students wouldn’t study until later grades, and that students don’t take it seriously because they know their scores don’t affect their grades or graduation status. Other concerns include:
(1) that the test was sold to the district while the sitting superintendent of schools, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, was on the board of the company that sold the test, which she did not divulge at the time, and (2) that the gains students are expected to make on the tests—at least at the high school level—are actually within the margin of error of the test grading, which makes the MAP appear pretty much statistically useless.
The superintendent has threatened disciplinary action against the teachers, and today is a “National Day of Action” to support the teachers. Supporters of the boycott are urging people to write to the superintendent or sign a petition addressed to him. (I signed the petition.)

I don’t understand why more people aren’t focusing their attention on Seattle’s elected school board, rather than its employee, the superintendent. The superintendent is just carrying out a requirement of the board, and his threat to discipline the teachers is based entirely upon a district policy enacted by the board. The board is in a much better position to solve this problem than the superintendent: Simply stop requiring the tests, and enact a policy protecting the teachers from being disciplined for the boycott. Maybe the board members won’t do that, but at least they can be held accountable at the polls. I would love to see a school board election focused on the issue of standardized testing.

In any event, I now have one of my questions for this year’s school board candidates: If our teachers decided as a group that certain standardized tests were harmful and refused to administer them, would you support a policy protecting them from disciplinary action for doing so?


Shannon Severance said...

I wish it came as a surprise to learn that there was conflict of interest when the MAP test was chosen.

More about the problems of Goodloe-Johnson's tenure:’s-fired-broad-academy-superintendent-maria-goodloe-johnson/

Chris said...

Shannon -- Thanks -- here's that link in clickable form.

More evidence to support Kevin Drum's assertion that it's impossible to be too skeptical about ed reform schemes.