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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
Teachers get students’ scores within a few days so they can use them to adjust what they’re teaching. They don’t see the test questions or students’ answers, but they do get a list of topics the test covers, and an indication of how students did on each of them.
“MAP is not the singular solution to all problems,” said John Cronin, who directs the research center associated with the organization that created the MAP, the Northwest Evaluation Association. “Great classroom assessments are needed, too.”
While the main purpose of the MAP exams is to monitor progress, the district also uses the results to help screen students for remedial classes, to determine which math classes they should take, and to assess whether they should be encouraged to apply for the district’s gifted program.
MAP also is one of two types of exams used to calculate a student growth rating for some teachers — mostly those who teach reading and math. Under the district’s new teacher-evaluation system, those ratings aren’t an official part of a teacher’s evaluation, but if growth is low, that triggers a closer look at his or her performance.
District administrators say they decided to buy the MAP because they wanted a third way to look at student’s academic progress in addition to state exams and the classroom tests developed by teachers individually or in groups.
Michael Tolley, the district’s interim assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said he thinks it takes at least three different types of data to make good decisions about students.
The district has cut back on training teachers in how to interpret MAP results, which is one reason Tolley and other officials think some teachers may not realize what the tests can provide.
Anderson, the research, assessment and evaluation director, acknowledges that the value of the MAP starts to diminish as students enter high school, especially students who are at grade level or above. For that reason, he said, the district already has stopped giving the MAP math test to ninth-graders who already have passed algebra.
This spring, as the district reviews its entire testing system, Anderson said, officials will look at whether all ninth-graders should continue to take the reading part of the MAP. They also may look at switching to a different ninth-grade math test, he said, one that is still part of MAP but focuses more closely on algebra.
Garfield teachers welcome the review but plan to stick to their boycott.
Their discontent is not new, they say. They’ve raised questions about the test for years and hope the district now will finally listen.
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