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January 22nd, 2013
Teachers’ test boycott draws growing support
Seattle teachers question the use of a computer adaptive test for formative assessment
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)