Kindergarteners Required to Test Twice a Year as Seattle “Rises” to Data Driven Education,

Seattle’s short-lived victory over standardized testing has come to a screeching halt. In March 2013, as a result of a very impressive boycott of the districts MAP test by both students and teachers alike, Superintendent of Seattle Schools, Jose’ Banda gave public school students a reprieve from the last MAP test of the year. This reprieve extended only to the districts MAP test, not to the State MSP or high school End of Course exams. As a result of the boycott Banda asked the Task Force on Assessment and Measuring Progress to make a recommendation to him in May regarding assessments for the 2013-14 school year. Well the decision for next year has been made and those once dancing in celebration now stand in shock.

Superintendent Banda’s decision is astonishing to say the least. I cannot sum it up and preserve the full impact of the coming changes so here is Seattle’s Superintendent Jose’ Banda’s full message:

In February, we formed a Task Force on Assessments and Measuring Progress to review our testing policies and explore concerns about the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. This group, comprised of principal, teacher, student, family and community representatives, met eight times and developed a list of recommendations for the 2013-14 school year.

I want to thank this group for their time and efforts. This proved to be an effective and productive opportunity to work together to develop constructive solutions that put students first while addressing the concerns raised by some of our staff. I look forward to ongoing discussions about the use of assessments to support teaching and learning in our district.

Based on this Task Force’s feedback, I am making the following decisions regarding the MAP assessment for the 2013-14 school year:

• Continue the use of MAP in kindergarten through 8th grade in 2013-14.

• High schools may opt out of MAP in 2013-14, but must provide evidence of a way to assess and monitor progress of students who are below standard in math and reading. In addition, the high school must follow their typical school-level decision-making process (which might include a school committee or staff vote).

• Administer the MAP assessment twice a year, with mandatory MAP assessments for fall and spring, but optional for winter.

• Use MAP in conjunction with other data points in making programmatic decisions for students. Do not use MAP data in isolation for placement in programs.

• Look beyond the next school year to explore new assessments. We will create a smaller working group/task force to evaluate future assessment options and make recommendations for testing starting in the 2014-15 school year.

The Task Force also provided a list of guidelines for the future, which we are taking into consideration. You can read the full report online here: ATF Final Report. In addition, you can read the detailed plan moving forward online here: MAP Implementation Plan.

Using data is important in our work as educators. Across Seattle Public Schools, we use multiple forms of data to help guide classroom instruction and measure progress. For many of our teachers and principals, the MAP assessment provides critical data to help screen the most vulnerable students for additional academic support and more personalized attention and to measure their growth and improvement over time. We cannot abandon this important data. But we can do a better job making sure our teachers are trained, the technology is in place for our students and that our families understand when and why we are conducting assessments.

In a survey administered by the Seattle Education Association, our teachers union, the majority of K-12 Seattle teachers said they believe the MAP assessment is effective or somewhat effective in identifying students for additional support, interventions or accommodations. A majority of teachers also said the MAP assessment is effective or somewhat effective in measuring and charting student progress over time.

Moving forward, we will work together to determine the most effective way to assess our students and how we use that data. I will create a new ongoing working group to monitor our assessments and work on recommendations for the 2014-15 school year and beyond.

Again, I want to thank the task force for their work, which included members taking the MAP test themselves. I am looking forward to our continued partnership with staff, families and the community in developing a plan that outlines how we use and administer assessments in the future.

Sincerely,

José Banda
Superintendent
Seattle Public Schools

Banda’s decision is a punch to the gut, to say the least. Yes, true he is allowing high school students who are performing well academically to opt out of the MAP next year, but he will now be requiring Kindergarten through 8th grade to take the MAP twice a year. Until now Kindergarten has not been included in any standardized testing in Seattle and until now the MAP test has been optional. Ah did you miss that part? For K-8th grade the MAP test will be MANDATORY starting next year, 2013-14. Testing will happen in both the Fall and Spring with an optional winter test.

I know it doesn’t sound so bad, a test only twice a year, right? But we are only talking about the MAP test, unfortunately this is not the only standardized test that students take each year. The MAP is Seattle School District’s chosen assessment of student progress, but there are 3 other test that are mandated by WA State Dept. of Education. The tests that students take depend on what grade they are in and each test has its own purpose. Let’s take a look at the different tests in our schools.

District Assessments:

Each school district has their own chosen test for pinpointing where a child is at academically, in Seattle it is the MAP test. This test is used to provide teachers with information which they will use to improve student learning, monitor each students academic growth and track their individual progress over time, it tells students, teachers, and families about each students skills, and makes data driven decisions about instruction. As of the 2012-13 school year these assessments were not to be used to retain a student in their current grade. Each district is free to choose which test company that they will use and sets their own guidelines for which grades get tested, when, and how often. As of now Seattle is the only district that has confirmed requiring the district assessment (MAP).

State Testing:

The Measure of Student Progress test (MSP) is a state mandated test which means that all public schools in Washington State will offer this test. As it stands only 3rd-8th graders take this test and it is not mandatory unless you are a full-time student in one of Washington’s ALE’s (Alternative Learning Experience). In order to opt your child out of the MSP you must notify your child’s school in writing, there is an opt-out form that I will attach below. The Dept. of Ed. claims that this test is not to be “the sole judge of a student’s academic skills and knowledge.” The MSP is usually given just a couple weeks apart from the last district test of the year.

The High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE)

According to WA State DOE “HSPE’s are comprehensive exams that measure the basic proficiency of high school students in reading and writing, and serve as the state’s exit exams in those subjects. Students must pass one HSPE in reading and one in writing to satisfy a portion of the graduation assessment requirements.” This test is offered once a year per subject for 10th-12th graders with summer and fall retake options. Stay tuned for updates on changes for 2015.

The End of Course Exams (EOC)

The WA State Dept. of Ed. states that the EOC’s “measure the knowledge of students in algebra 1/integrated math 1, geometry/integrated math 2 and biology when they complete each course. They serve as the state’s exit exams for math and science.” Currently students in grades 7-12 can take the math and biology end-of-course (EOC) exams the last 3 weeks of the school year (depending on when the school offers them). In 2013-14 each student must pass one math EOC in algebra 1/integrated math 1 or geometry/integrated math 2 to satisfy a portion of the graduation assessment requirements.

Please keep in mind the information above may differ for special needs students, and students with special circumstances.

How can we stop the madness?

Seattle is the first district in WA to make such bold testing changes, but with the coming implementation of Common Core State Standards will more districts follow suit? Unfortunately we won’t know until testing approaches, but we do know that Common Core is big on testing and data driven education. So if you are fed up with all of the testing, outraged to see Kindergarteners forced to test instead of playing, or concerned that your school may end up following Seattle, don’t wait to make your voice heard!

Please contact your local school district, the state Dept. of Ed., and your local and state representatives. Keep your schools from following Seattle’s lead, our kids depend on us!

If you haven’t yet, please sign Washington State’s petition to get our of Common Core! http://stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/petition-to-stop-common-core-in-wa-state/

MSP optional opt-out form: https://sites.google.com/site/optoutwashington/

Superintendent Banda’s March 29th 2013 message: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=1153b60e0b5ca43e75a89bd947d0b979&pageid=292571&sessionid=1153b60e0b5ca43e75a89bd947d0b979

Superintendent Banda’s June 2013 message: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=3fefd7f4a5c0c15cd133011033cc8721&pageid=294872&sessionid=3fefd7f4a5c0c15cd133011033cc8721

Article on MAP test: http://www.kuow.org/post/seattle-schools-chief-scales-back-controversial-map-test

MAP test info: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=&pageid=219359

State test information: http://k12.wa.us/assessment/StateTesting/default.aspx

MAP implementation plan: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/communications/documents/MAP_ImplementationPlan_2013-14_v2.pdf

Task Force recommendations: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/communications/documents/ATF_FinalReport_5-9-2013_v2.pdf

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