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Seattle Teachers' Test Boycott Pays Off

The Seattle school district has announced that high schools in the city will no longer be required to administer the Measures of Academic Progress assessment—a computerized adaptive test that some teachers had refused to give earlier this year.

In a letter posted last week on the district's website, Superintendent José Banda said that the district would continue to use MAP in kindergarten through 8th grade but that "high schools may opt of MAP in 2013-14." However, schools that opt out must provide evidence of using an alternative method to "assess and monitor the progress of students who are behind in math and reading."

Banda said the change is based on recommendations made by the district's Task Force on Assessment and Measuring Progress, which was created in February in response to teachers' concerns.

In December, teachers at Garfield High School staged a much-publicized boycott of the MAP assessment that was later joined by other teachers across the city. The teachers argued that the test was not connected to the standards they were expected to teach and not statistically valid at the high school level. Further, they said, it took much-needed time and resources away from classroom instruction.

While the Seattle teachers generally insisted that their complaints were focused specifically on the MAP assessment and not on assessments in general, their protests sparked a new wave of concern and outcry about alleged over-testing in U.S. schools.

The teachers' actions were a source of pride and inspiration for many of their colleagues nationwide. They also prompted soul-searching among some educators about speaking out against testing practices they see as not constructive.

In his letter, Banda noted that the district has plans to form a new task force to "evaluate future assessment options." He said that the district remains committed to using "multiple forms of data to help guide instruction and measure progress." For many educators in the district, he added, "the MAP assessment provides critical data to help screen the most vulnerable students for academic support and more personalized attention."

Correction: This post originally gave the wrong date for the Seattle district's announcement about the MAP changes. The superintendent's letter was posted on May 13.

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