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Teachers’ test boycott draws growing support

Seattle teachers question the use of a computer adaptive test for formative assessment

Educators say the test can tie up some school libraries or computer labs for weeks.

Frustrated with the amount of testing their students must undergo, a group of Seattle teachers is boycotting the district’s use of a computer adaptive test as a formative assessment tool—and their stand has drawn nationwide attention.

Eleven years ago, Rachel Eells saw value in the formative assessments that she and other teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School are now refusing to give their students.

Back then, she was a new middle-school teacher in the Highline School District, and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) helped her identify the strengths and weaknesses of her students in reading.

But Eells grew disenchanted with the MAP, saying it was, at best, a rough diagnostic tool that often left her with more questions than answers, especially with her older students. She couldn’t tell why, for example, a student would do well on literary terms one time, then poorly the next.

So when a Garfield colleague asked Eells last month whether she would consider boycotting the MAP, she said yes so quickly the colleague paused, a little taken aback.

But Eells didn’t need time to weigh the pros and cons.

“I don’t want to spend my time or my students’ time on something that’s not useful or beneficial,” she said.

Since Garfield teachers announced their boycott nearly two weeks ago, they have been hailed as heroes by those concerned about the overuse and misuse of assessment, although the teachers have been careful to say they’re not protesting all tests, just this one.

On Jan. 21, they received a statement of support signed by more than 60 educators and researchers, including well-known authors Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ravitch, and Noam Chomsky.

(Next page: Why teachers are protesting)

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  1. computerhead

    January 23, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Over many years I have found that the MAP is
    the most reliable measure. Especially compared
    to state tests. I mean reliable in the sense
    that the MAP results most closely match what
    I see students doing in the classroom.

    The problem is not testing per se. The problem is
    over-testing, a mania for testing. This is
    polluting the value of all tests, including
    the Measures of Academic Progress.