Maureen Downey is the education blogger at Get Schooled on the Atlanta Journal-Journal (AJC) website, and writes occasional education editorials for the newspaper. In her post today, she wonders why the teachers in Seattle are protesting by refusing to administer a test they are required to give three times per year to all students in their classes. She puts it this way:
What’s odd to me is the test Seattle teachers are choosing to protest, which is the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP). The high performing City of Decatur Schools uses MAP testing as well, giving it three times a year to see where students begin, where they are mid-year and where they are at the end of the year.
My kids attend Decatur schools and are not intimidated by MAP testing as it has been part of their education for a long time. Nor are they overly concerned with the scores, which they get instantly as the test is taken on a computer. I would be interested in what other Decatur parents out there think about MAP.
Downey clearly doesn’t understand the reasons for teachers boycotting the exam. The MAP, purports to measure student’s academic performance in reading, math, language and science. It is a product of the Northwest Evaluation Association, a testing company in Portland, Oregon. MAP is computer generated test that adapts to student responses. Downey claims that her children have no problem with the test as it is used at Decatur High School, a school located next to Atlanta. That may be so, but her reasoning is flawed about why the teachers in Seattle refuse to give the test.
Here’s the deal. Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle announced their refusal to administer the standardized test, MAP. The teachers believe it wastes time, money and resources. According to one report, the test is useless for Algebra I students since the test is about probability and statistics and geometry, which are not in the curriculum. Because students are told that the results on the test will not affect their grade or graduation, many do not take the test seriously.
But the real reason is that the teachers know that the test results do not offer formative assessment information that benefits them or their students. In fact, some of the teachers want to replace the MAP standardized test with portfolios and tests that are related to their curriculum.
Seattle Public Schools paid $4 million to the company that its superintendent served as a member of the board of directors. If the district spends this much on a test that doesn’t impact students, imagine what they pay for the other required standardized high-stakes tests.
What Downey misses here is that teachers in Seattle are not clueless about evaluation. They know that assessment should be for learning. The use of a test such as MAP DOES NOT promote student learning. It has little meaning to specific students needs, and teachers’ expectations.
Downey needs to understand that assessment for learning is formative assessment. Formative assessments are everyday methods that teachers use to help students improve their learning and understanding , and to inform and improve their teaching. Formative assessment methods have been studied by many researchers, and one study, funded by the National Science Foundation found that teachers who use formative methods take the steps to find the gap between a student’s current work and the desired aim, and then together figure out how the gap can be bridged.
Formative assessment is multidimensional, and unlike high-stakes testing, is integrated into the curriculum. The assessments are authentic–that is to say, teachers use a variety of real activities to assess student progress–laboratory activities, writing essays, participating in a debate, classroom questions, and indeed simply observing and interacting with students.
Although banning high-stakes testing needs to done, assessment for learning is not a simple idea, but one that requires a multidimensional approach to assessment in the service of student learning.
The fact that teachers are willing to take the risk and act on their professional knowledge that these tests are not pedagogically valid. Like their colleagues in Chicago, the Seattle teachers are willing to say no.
What do you think about this issue? Are the teachers in Seattle acting in the interest of their students?Tags: Clueless, Formative Assessment, Maureen Downey, Seattle, standardized tests, Test, The Atlanta Journal