Saturday, December 10, 2011

Washington State: Bringing Parent Opposition and Resistance Out of the Shadows

Grumpy Educators is committed to highlighting the growing numbers of parents, community members, and taxpayers who question the costs, validity, and impact of excessive standardized testing.

Below is a slightly edited version published letter sent by a parent to the Seattle Public Schools asserting parental rights over participation in standardized testing.

To Whom It May Concern:
My name is _____. I am the father of two Seattle Public School students, XXXX and XXXXXX who are currently enrolled at _____.
It is my intention that this letter serve as notice to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) that I wish for my two children to not be assessed using the Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) either during the next scheduled assessment or any future assessment, scheduled or unscheduled, that SPS imposes on its students.
While I am not theoretically opposed to the use of standardized assessments, I am opposed to the administration of the MAP by Seattle Public Schools for the following reasons.
The State of Washington mandates the annual assessment of elementary and middle school students through the Measurement of Student Progress (MSP). While some might disagree with me, I firmly believe that the MSP is a valid measurement of a child’s educational progress and that any additional assessments given above the classroom level are redundant and unneccessary.
The MAP is expensive to administer, not only because the subscription to the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is costly but also because of the extra staff that is needed for its administration. As SPS has difficulty meeting its budgetary obligations and has had to reduce or eliminate programming in order to keep its budget in-line, it seems illogical for the District to spend scarce resources on the MAP. This is especially true if one agrees with me that the MAP is unnecessary and redundant.
Administration of the MAP comes at the expense of valuable instructional time. When students are being assessed, they are not learning anything except how to take the MAP. For our students, time would be better spent in the classroom learning from their teachers.
The MAP also forces schools to set aside facilities such as the computer labs and libraries for extended periods of time in order for the test to be administered. These facilities are needed for other purposes with actual educational merit.
While NWEA has cautioned that the MAP should not be used to rate teacher effectiveness, that is exactly what Seattle Public Schools intends do with the MAP. Indeed, there is no research extant that supports the use of standardized tests as a means of judging whether a teacher is effective or not. Considering this, I find it unconscionable that SPS intends to use the MAP in this way. Not only will this irresponsible use of the MAP potentially ruin a teacher’s career it will also ruin our children’s education as teachers narrow the curriculum to fit the test in order to safeguard their livelihoods. There is ample evidence that this is already happening in other school districts throughout the country.
It is unbelievable that District officials are unaware of the mounting evidence against the use of standardized tests either as an assessment tool or as a method for ensuring the quality of teachers. I cannot help but conclude that there are other, insidious reasons why Seattle Public Schools continues to march down the path it has taken regarding the use of the MAP. It is shameful that the people entrusted with our children’s education would ignore their needs in order to pursue an agenda that has nothing educational as its goal.
I cannot compel Seattle Public Schools to abandon its use of the Measurement of Academic Progress. That power resides with the Superintendent and the School Board. Still, I can demand that my two children be exempted from taking part in this malicious farce. As stated above, it is my intention that this letter serve as notice to Seattle Public Schools that I am making such a demand.

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