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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teacher Rally Packs the School Board Meeting, School District Threatens Teachers with Suspension

Posted by on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 9:53 PM


Outside the Seattle Public Schools headquarters this afternoon, a crowd of more than a hundred people gathered in support of the Garfield High School teachers' boycott of the district's standardized test (the Measure of Academic Progress, or MAP), shouting and singing and preparing to crowd into the school board meeting taking place inside. Little kids in winter hats and parkas held hands, older folks waved signs. "I'd rather be teaching," read one. "Parent supports Garfield," read another. The vice president of the Chicago teachers union, Jesse Sharkey, called in, and his speech was shouted out to the crowd. "Sisters and brothers... There's only one way forward: Stick together and fight." Teachers learned today, in emergency after-school staff meetings, that they could be subject to 10-day suspensions without pay if they did not administer the test, according to Garfield teacher Jesse Hagopian. "They say we're disruptive?" Hagopian called out, right outside the closed doors of the school board meeting. "I think a test that is not aligned to my curriculum is disruptive. Threatening teachers with 10 days without pay is disruptive." The rally ended with a hearty rendition of "SCRAP THE MAP! SCRAP THE MAP!" before leaders reminded everyone to be respectful, and most of the group crowded into the meeting.

If you haven't been paying attention to this issue as it's developed, now is the time to start. To recap: On Thursday, January 10, Garfield high school teachers called a press conference to announce that, "in perhaps the first instance anywhere in the nation," they were universally refusing to administer the district-mandated standardized test, calling it "counterproductive" and a waste of "time, money, and precious school resources." Seattle Public Schools superintendent José Banda's response has been to announce a task force to "discuss concerns and find solutions" regarding the MAP test and then to tell teachers they are still required to administer it. A couple of other schools have since joined in, further schools have voted to "support" the boycott, and other organizations have voiced their support as well—PTSAs, Garfield High School's Associated Student Body, the school district's student senate, the Seattle Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Parents Across America Seattle, and more. The two most salient concerns, though there are many others, seem to be (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.

During the comment period at the school board meeting tonight, there were parents and students there to talk about their usual concerns—school lunches, siblings attending the same schools, etc. But the high-energy crowd was there for the folks testifying about the MAP test boycott. When they spoke, the room often erupted again into chants of "SCRAP THE MAP!" much to the seeming chagrin of the school board members. A memorable bit of testimony was given by Garfield High School reading specialist Mallory Clarke, who said she talked to a student just today who was grateful the teachers were boycotting the test. Clarke asked her why, and she said she hated taking it; she was just learning English and she didn't understand the questions. But, the student went on, she didn't mind it too much: "My favorite letter is c," she said, so she just bubbles in the c for all the answers. And: "I get a really high score!" she told Clarke.

"Threatening our livelihoods, before they even met with us, [is] egregious," Hagopian, who has a one-week old son, told me after the meeting. He's been calling Banda's office, and says "he didn't even get back to me." But are teachers backing down? No way, says Hagopian. "There's a lack of dialogue and process that needs to be restored," he said. "The teachers of Garfield are committed to building that alliance." These teachers have specific problems with this specific test and they want to see those addressed: "[The district's] response was so vague... We've done our homework on this." And, he says, teachers know what's best for their students. "We're facing climate change, endless wars, economic disasters. I need these kids to think outside the box. We need critical thinkers."

The coalition in opposition to this test is quite broad, and their reasons are varied. Special education and ESL teachers are frustrated by how poorly the test serves their students and worried that if the test is used to evaluate teachers, their students will be exiled from currently inclusive classrooms so teachers' test scores don't suffer. Librarians are furious that the libraries are off-limits during testing, rendering the collections they so lovingly curate totally worthless. Parents, students, and teachers find the tests to be annoying time-wasters administered multiple times a year, taking the place of classroom learning.

On the other hand, a meaningful coalition in support of this test does not exist. The only people who have spoken in support of the test are school board members, a few of whom gave toe-the-line comments today about how some people find the test useful, and Superintendent Banda, who has ordered teachers to administer it and yet so far has refused to sit down with the teachers themselves to discuss the issue.

After the meeting, I spoke with Garfield High School student body president Obadiah Terry, who told me the students are in full support of the teachers. "We don't take it seriously," he says of the test. "She just said they have to be positive role models," he said, referring to school board president Kay Smith-Blum's admonishment to the crowd before the comment period. "But [the school board and superintendent] are not being good role models" because "they're not talking" to these teachers.


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Posted by robipolan on March 8, 2013 at 3:40 AM · Report this
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"It's not at all aligned to state standards (which is what our curriculum is aligned to), so students are not being tested on what they learn. The feedback from the test is not very useful for students, families, and teachers for this reason. Further, it is being used to evaluate the efficacy of teachers, however the MAP doesn't measure what students should be learning."

Exactly. If you understand the issues, you support the teachers.

Go Garfield!
Posted by hannah bell on January 26, 2013 at 1:33 AM · Report this
Here's how district admin likes their "dialog"...…
Posted by burb on January 24, 2013 at 7:56 PM · Report this
urn 25
@21 Yes. This. All of this. The problem isn't in the trenches, it's with the generals. We should be listening to those with feet on the ground.
Posted by urn on January 24, 2013 at 12:28 PM · Report this
What a grave disappointment that Mr. Banda responded as an authoritarian rather than an academic. He is saying, in short, "Yes, it is a terrible waste of time, money, and resources, but you have to do it because I said so and I am the boss."

That's no way to run an education organization and that's no way to lead a corps of professionals.

The teachers have been trying to communicate with the District about this for years and the District has ignored them. This boycott isn't the first try; it is the last resort.

Thank goodness it appears to be working. Thank goodness the District has promised to actually conduct a review of the practice. Now let's see if they keep that promise.
Posted by Charlie Mas on January 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM · Report this
Absolutely, the teachers are right to refuse. Unfortunately, these fights are going to go on for a long time before we all agree that the entire structure of schooling needs to be changed.

Someday, "standardized tests," will look as enlightened and constructive as dunce caps and corporal punishment.…
Posted by LJM on January 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Report this
Catherwood 22
@18, try to keep up: there is no more WASL. It's now the MSP (in Middle School) or HSP (in High School), pronounced "mispy" and "hispy".

I'll also add in my statistician skillz here and say that the "re-norming" the MAP company did last year was obviously a clusterfuck from top to bottom: nearly identical scores were moved around, percentiles changed in apparently random directions. These people have no idea what the hell they're doing - and yet this crap is used to evaluate teacher performance, because DATA!

It's a beautiful example of GIGO, and the teachers are right to refuse to waste students' time with it.
Posted by Catherwood on January 24, 2013 at 10:47 AM · Report this
I really don't understand the hatred targeted at teachers nowadays. You know what, people? We (teachers) know what we're doing. We know how to best teach your student. We know how to assess how they are doing and help them improve. We know how to design lessons and materials. The vast majority of us really, deeply care about your kids and preparing them for the future. Why do you insist on making us out to be the bad guys? Why can't we stand up for ourselves and our students without trolls coming out of the woodwork to spew hatred and negativity about our care? WE KNOW THIS TEST IS FLAWED. Have you been in our classes? Have you seen the impact of the test? Have you ever taught a moment in your life? If not, trust us. Allow us to be the professionals that the epic amounts of money we've spent (and are mandated to continue to spend) on preparing ourselves for our profession have prepared us to be. Trust us. We do know some stuff. Really. We are tired of corporate interests and government and non-teacher administrators deciding what is right for students when WE FUCKING KNOW BETTER THAN THEY DO!!!! We are finally standing up for our position and making it public. If that rubs you the wrong way, sorry. Your kids will benefit from this in the long run. Perhaps we'll finally get a better test than the MAP that does what it is supposed to do, has usable data aligned to standards, and has less negative impact on other areas. We want your kids to be learning, not constantly testing. We want what is best for your kids. And us. It's a combo. Don't hate. Think. Support us who have dedicated our working lives to helping children for shitty pay, ever-increasing administrative bullshit, and little respect. We DO know what we are talking about.
Posted by paulus22 on January 24, 2013 at 9:58 AM · Report this
If you support public education, support teachers now. We are under attack. We have been fighting this test for 4 years. This is not a new issue.

Banda decided to attack and threaten us instead of sitting down and talking. That was not a wise move.

Please send email to Superintendent Banda and tell him what you think of his threats and intimidation. We can use as much support as possible.

Have a kid in Seattle Schools? Have them OPT OUT of the MAP test. Send letters of support to your kids teachers too.

Posted by noamg on January 24, 2013 at 9:21 AM · Report this
"I hope they refuse to give the WASL too"

And SAT, AP. End all testing! All kids go to college! All kids get equal, good grades! All kids get good, equal paying jobs! No bosses, no workers! Equality for all!
Posted by Blah blah blah blah blah.... on January 24, 2013 at 8:57 AM · Report this
I hope they refuse to give the WASL too. Talk about a huge disruption!
Posted by treehugger on January 24, 2013 at 8:43 AM · Report this
seatackled 17
@8 Seriously? There could be many reasons for mentioning that, but surely there's a fairly apparent connection between the report that some guy is threatened with having his salary docked and the fact that he now has to help raise a child.
Posted by seatackled on January 24, 2013 at 8:36 AM · Report this
"rly designed materials that primarily test how white and wealthy a district is"

What, they need to test rap, Ebonics and carjacking skills instead if English and math?
Posted by English & math on January 24, 2013 at 7:58 AM · Report this
. "We're facing climate change, endless wars, economic disasters. I need these kids to think outside the box. We need critical thinkers."

This is the idiocy leading this tiny movement of a few loud mouthed malcontents? Screw testing for basic English and death skills, the kids need to be radicals!

This is a tiny movement of loud mouths. Fire their asses so the REAL SPS parents can get their kids educated.
Posted by Fire them on January 24, 2013 at 7:56 AM · Report this
@11 Thanks, fixed.
Posted by Anna Minard on January 24, 2013 at 7:51 AM · Report this
Luckily people have been around enough to spot the lunatic fringe like the board saw last night. Most parents are fucking tired of the morons who come out every year, throw the table over and demand 'justice'. The test works. Sorry it doesn't measure Little Johnny's rap and Ebonics skills but guess what, that's not what he needs in life.

And an ESL student struggles with the English part? That's the fucking point.
Posted by SPS silent majority parent on January 24, 2013 at 7:46 AM · Report this
@7 "Standardized" tests are administered and scored in a standardized way... which is marketing for uniformly, or "we wouldn't know how to adjust the scores anyways and we certainly don't want to pay for people to grade these things".

Standardized tests have nothing specifically to do with state or district standards.

So the teachers do know what hey are talking about. They are responding to a situation that has gotten worse and worse in the 40+ years since standardized testing was introduce: poorly designed materials that primarily test how white and wealthy a district is and which waste teachers' and students' time and the districts' money. It's a great racket.
Posted by dirge on January 24, 2013 at 7:29 AM · Report this
Map is district mandated, not state.
Posted by Seattle escapee on January 24, 2013 at 6:05 AM · Report this
This is the best summary of the issue I've seen so far, however I would argue the most salient point against the MAP is this:

It's not at all aligned to state standards (which is what our curriculum is aligned to), so students are not being tested on what they learn. The feedback from the test is not very useful for students, families, and teachers for this reason. Further, it is being used to evaluate the efficacy of teachers, however the MAP doesn't measure what students should be learning.

Using tests of students to evaluate teachers is another issue all together--if Nate Silver looked at the data collection and analysis behind how this is being done in Seattle and elsewhere, he'd vomit a little in his mouth.

I teach in Seattle, and you all should know that this MAP thing is the tip of an iceberg of sinking shipness. Our technology resources are chronically under-supported, we just bought and Internet filter that is unsupported and a gradebook program that, despite being a decade newer is barely better than our old 20th century program; our Math curriculum doesn't match the state standards; boundary lines/student assignments are all fucked up, despite the district having access to future growth predictions that have proven to be quite accurate; and of our last three superintendents, two stole and/or disappeared millions of dollars from the district; and on and on. The Seattle School District is like a failed state (think Somalia) and the schools that have a supportive community base and dedicated teachers and staff are getting by (think Mogadishu). Parents and students may not see this side of things as often, but teachers do, and it sucks.

All this in a school district that's known for the high amount of money spent on district management positions. Good times Seattle, good times.
Posted by Corporations Are People Too on January 24, 2013 at 5:40 AM · Report this
Mallory Clarke, who said she talked to a student just today who was grateful the teachers were boycotting the test. Clarke asked her why, and she said she hated taking it; she was just learning English and she didn't understand the questions. But, the student went on, she didn't mind it too much: "My favorite letter is c," she said, so she just bubbles in the c for all the answers. And: "I get a really high score!"

It seems like this whole issue is based on hyperbole and heresay . A kid who bubbles in C on a computer based test? A kid who simultaneously hates it because she doesn't get it and doesn't mind it but she gets a really high score from guessing?

This sounds just like the informed testimony that we all need to hear so we can understand this situation. Thanks Anna for including this in your report.

This "Standardized test" that "isn't aligned to curriculum" (which curriculum is supposedly based on standards)" is confusing me. Is it Standardized or not? Answer: it isn't a standardized test but it keeps being said over and over that it is.

Bottom line is it seems like people don't know what they are talking about. And when the Social Justice people start chanting about "brothers and sisters standing together to fight", well that is the emotional pitch that simply riles people up, its the stuff that gives unions a bad name.

There are some good points to be made against the MAP test here but they are certainly lost amid the righteous indignation.
Was the test adopted under graft from our previous superintendent? Most likely. Are there better alternatives to measuring progress over the course of the year? Most likely.
Does the reading portion depend on a working knowledge of the western cannon (for high school students) that has not been taught in classrooms. Yes and this makes it difficult to impossible for kids to improve on this section of the test. Yes.

#7 I find you to be a soulless prick and wish that people as selfish as you would disappear from the face of the earth, but I find your assessment of the teachers in this case spot on.
Posted by jnonymous on January 24, 2013 at 4:56 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 8
2, I thought that was an odd non-sequitor, myself.

Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on January 23, 2013 at 11:58 PM · Report this
As someone who wants the school referendums to fail, I welcome this demonstration of insubordination and immaturity. Keep it up, you whining, spoiled, "progressive" brats. I couldn't have asked for anything more!
Posted by Mister G on January 23, 2013 at 11:39 PM · Report this
seatackled 6
@2 You sound like Phoebe.
Posted by seatackled on January 23, 2013 at 11:28 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 5
TAKE the suspension. No court can order you back to work as you are not on strike! TAKE the suspension.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 23, 2013 at 10:56 PM · Report this
@1 The beef is with the MAP. The test is being used improperly, and has no correlation to the curriculum.
Posted by StuckInUtah on January 23, 2013 at 10:55 PM · Report this
The issue is NOT testing; any of the teachers will tell you that. And yes, they have proposed alternatives including a portfolio review (plus the state test) or another type of test.

This is NOT a cheap test and as well, with the new Common Code standards coming in, will need to be changed.

That they have high school kids take it who do NOT take it seriously as it has nothing to do with graduation is also a waste of time and money. (Taking the test involves shutting down school libraries for weeks at a time. Consider that for the rest of the student body.)

The courage of these teachers to say "enough of this expensive test that gives us little guidance on how we are doing OR how our students are doing" is astonishing.

That the teachers at Chief Sealth High School came out AFTER the announced punishment of teacher who don't give the MAP and said, "nope, not giving it" is really inspiring.
Posted by westello on January 23, 2013 at 10:54 PM · Report this
what's the point of saying that Hagopian has a one-week-old child?
Posted by sarah70 on January 23, 2013 at 10:53 PM · Report this
Teslick 1
Either you administer the test or you don't. Is the beef with the MAP or standardized testing in general? Is anyone proposing an alternative?
Posted by Teslick on January 23, 2013 at 10:23 PM · Report this

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