Teachers refuse to give ‘useless’ tests

Teachers at a Seattle high school are refusing to give a district-mandated exam, saying it’s a waste of time, reports NPR. Measures of Academic Progress is given up to three times a year from kindergarten through at least ninth grade, in addition to state exams.

Garfield High’s academic dean, Kris McBride, MAP doesn’t seem to align with district or state curricula. Teachers can’t see the test, so they don’t know why their students did well or poorly. (MAP adapts to students’ performance levels, giving easier or harder questions depending on how well they do, so there is no one exam for all students.)

Portfolios of students’ work could replace MAP, writes teacher Jesse Hagopian in a Seattle Times op-ed.

Seattle’s ninth- and 10th-grade students already take five state-required standardized tests . . . Seattle Public Schools staff admitted to a Garfield teacher the MAP test is not valid at the high-school level, because the margin of error is greater than expected gains.

. . . Students don’t take the MAP seriously because they know their scores don’t factor into their grades or graduation status. They approach it less seriously each time they take it, so their scores decline. Our district uses MAP scores in teacher evaluations, even though the MAP company recommends against using it to evaluate teacher effectiveness and it’s not mandated in our union contract.

Eleven teachers at ORCA K-8, a Seattle alternative school, have joined the boycott.

More than 60 educators and researchers have signed a statement supporting the test boycott, including Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ravitch and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

About Joanne


  1. Fire them.

    School boards and school districts elected by parents have the right to mandate tests, and teachers have the responsibility and duty to follow the rules, policies and procedures set in place by them.

    • Nazis also had rules. If you were living in Germany during those years you would have been a law abiding citizen always obedient.

      • Really? In a conversation about the responsibility of teachers to follow the guidelines and procedures put in place by a locally elected school board, you bring in the NAZIs?

  2. I thought that the first MAPS test was more about formative assessment. The first one at the beginning of the year was about what they know coming in. I remember receiving the results, so I can’t imagine what good it would do if the teacher never saw them.

  3. Stacy in NJ says:

    My son takes a MAP test 3 times per year (at the end of each trimester) at his private school. They don’t take other state exams. The teachers see the results of the tests and are responsible for tracking weaknesses/strengths/gaps and remediating where necessary. They monitor with a pretty complex data system.

    In my opinion, if used properly, it’s absolutely invaluable.

    But, that’s a private school for you, responding to the real needs of students and parents and requiring accountability from teachers and administrators.

  4. A test (assessment) used properly will provide valuable information, and if it is used incorrectly will be next to worthless, which is what the teachers appear to be griping about in Washington state.

  5. Fire them all.

  6. Classics Mom says:

    I do believe in assessments that assess a student at various points in the school year to see how much they have learned. However, I also think that students should have some skin in the game. I have meant average, good parents who have recalled how their child would just fill in all C’s for answers since their children felt mandated testing like testing for NCLB was “stupid”. Students have no incentive to do well in this sort of testing since it does not affect their grades. I also think teachers should have detailed results of said exams so that they could have an accurate assessments of their students’ strengths and weaknesses. It only seems fair if these tests are going to be used for evaluating schools and teachers.

  7. facebook_miguel.a.nieves.399 says:

    Long live the brave teachers! They are the true believers in education.

  8. Peace Corps says:

    I’m curious … How long has this school been giving the MAP test. What are they basing “useless” on? If it is many years, they may have a point. I don’t know. If it is not many years, maybe it is premature to use the results in teacher evaluations.

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    As always Joanne has left significant facts out of the story in order to paint teachers in a bad light.

    Fact: the tests were purchased on a no-bid contract from a company the supt. worked for. Can you say conflict of interest?


    Fact: the teachers were told the test was all but worthless, “the margin of error is greater than expected gains.”

    • A no-bid contract? Feel free to point to the place in the story *you* linked that states the test was awarded on a *no-bid* basis.

      And who told those teachers the test was all but worthless? A little bird? The test fairy? Methinks your “fact” is devoid of facts.

      Oh, and those are the teacher’s concerns which you may consider the equivalent of facts but – sorry – they’re not.

      • It absolutely was a “no-bid” contract; the former superintendent was on a board at the company. No other test was considered.

        The test doesn’t align with the curriculum. Fact.
        The test shuts down libraries for weeks. Fact.
        Neither parents or teachers can even see a sample question. Fact.
        It has no basis for grading high school students and they don’t take it seriously especially when material is covered that they have never seen before. Fact.
        The company says it shouldn’t be used for teacher evaluations but is by the district. Fact.
        The district uses it for other high-stakes purposes. Fact.

        “Methinks” you might read before you opine.

        • Methinks if you had something more to offer then “It absolutely was a “no-bid” contract” you’d offer it up. No link? Get lost.

          As for the rest of your breathless denunciation of the test, who cares? It’s not for you or the teachers in question to make that determination. That’s the job of the school board or the legislature as public education’s currently constituted and no amount of whining on your part is going to change that fact.

          The real irony is that it’s us “reformy” types who, by elevating the importance of parents will elevate the importance of teachers.

          You remember who parents are, right? They’re the folks who reflexively want kids to get a good education. But you, and Mike, and Caroline and the rest of the staunch defenders of the status quo who blab while standing are too wedded to your status quo to notice the fact that the people who worry about getting good teachers for the kids are the parents.

          The administration and the board’s worried about budgets and schedules and regulatory/legal compliance and appearing cunningly cutting edge and everything but that the kids are getting a crappy education.

      • Mike in Texas says:

        You’ve really sunk to a new low of foolishness. My post above CLEARLY has a link to the story.

        • Sorry, your post CLEARLY doesn’t have a link to any story that even suggests the tests were purchased on a no-bid basis.

          Since, as usual, when you don’t have a self-serving response to make you ignore the question I’ll just ask it again:

          And who told those teachers the test was all but worthless? A little bird? The test fairy? Methinks your “fact” is devoid of facts.

          • Mike in Texas says:

            I see you continue to ignore reality. In the meantime here is ANOTHER link:


          • Yawn.

            In case you missed the memo teachers don’t run school districts. That’s the job of the duly elected representatives of the people and their administrative employees.

            With wonderful irony you, as a teacher, have exactly the same degree of control as does a parent – you can up stakes and change your zip code but that’s the extent it.

            Talk about karma! There’s a boatload.

        • Oh, and just to make clear your place in the universe, a school board may be entirely within its lawful power to select a test on a no-bid basis and the *employees* the school board hires have no legitimate, legal recourse to reverse such a decision.

          You’re the bottom of the professional hierarchy in our current public education system and properly treated as such. Don’t like? Too bad, the current system cares neither for your wishes or your skills.

          Why don’t you see if you can come to terms with those facts rather then making up *facts* to suit your conceits?

          • Mike in Texas says:

            Big surprise, you’re wrong again. Follow the articles and you’ll see the state ruled it was an ethics violation for the supt.

  10. I highly encourage you to actually look at the questions on the MAP so you will understand the concern. It is truly a crappy test. I will give you one example and see if you can figure out the answer: “Is a caveman in a cave anxious or brave when he hears the wind outside?” You tell me, is that really a valid question to assess reading comprehension in second grade? And I have found over 8 mistakes on the math portion of the test alone. Obviously the test was not designed by math majors. Just go to a public school in Seattle and ask to see the test since it is being administed now. Once you have seen the test, you can’t help but agree that it is truly idiotic. Don’t take my word for it, go take a look yourself. And, btw, I once worked in a private school and we always laughed at parents who never questioned us teachers because they always assumed they were getting what they paid for–not. I am surprised the parent whose child goes to a private school considers the MAP a good test. I doubt she’s seen it. But private school children always perform lower on state and federally mandated tests than public school children so she probably has no idea what a real test looks like.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Riiight. Those stupid, stupid parents. Nice to see the respect in which you hold those who payed your salary. Isn’t it odd how private schooled kids do so much better on the important tests (SAT and ACT) considering how poorly informed their parents are?

    • Peace Corps says:

      Ms. Grey–“we always laughed at parents”–
      You are not making teachers look good with this statement. I have a lot of varying thoughts about parents, some not very pleasant in cerrtain circumstances, but I don’t believe I’ve ever laughed at parents.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      When my kids–twins–were in el ed, they were having a hard time in science. The school had the same company provide different books for third and fifth grade science.
      I looked at the tests provided by the textbook company. The more you knew, the tougher it was to answer the questions. Terrible test.
      Talked to the teacher: Yes, the better students struggle with the test. Brilliant smile telling me the discussion was over.
      My wife, to the end of her career, made up her own tests. So, afaik, every teacher I had. I don’t know if one could make the case that the textbook company(ies) know more about the subject and how it’s presented than the teacher and thus are better able to make a useful test. But if one teacher makes up a lousy test, only those students are harmed.

  11. bteacher99 says:

    Teachers should not “see” the Stanford, OLSAT, TerraNova, SAT, or ACT either. Is this group of teachers declaring all those tests useless? The point of assessment is to help the teacher know what kids have mastered and what they need to learn. MAP provides a reference for teachers to work from, filling in the gaps and working with those who need assistance or challenge. If kids are making computation errors or grammatical errors that lower their MAP scores, then those kids haven’t really mastered the skills, have they? And, if kids are just “lucky guessers”, they probably won’t be so lucky the next time, giving a more accurate picture. Of course, if the teachers never see the results, the district is wasting its money.

    Someone wrote in response: “But private school children always perform lower on state and federally mandated tests than public school children so she probably has no idea what a real test looks like.” I hope you realize how inaccurate your opinion actually is. This link proves your “always” to be a lie. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2006461.asp Here’s another if you want a more recent score: http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/local-education/private-schools-top-public-in-average-act-sat-scor/nTtCq/