MAP protest not unanimous among BHS parents

By Elizabeth Wang

While 18 staff members of Ballard High School (Update: the number is now 43) have joined the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) boycott, Ballard parents have exhibited a different spread of opinions.

As the father of two Ballard High School students, Michael Lemon, BHS PTSA president, said he isn't sure which end of the debate he sides with.

“I have mixed feelings about it as a parent,” Lemon said. “It is a distraction from other curricula that (the students) are supposed to be paying attention to. It's not required for them to graduate and a lot of them don't take them seriously for that reason.”

One of the main concerns of MAP protesters is its inefficient use of resources. Because it is a computer-based test, taking the MAP requires pulling students from their regularly scheduled classes to use the computer labs, which have been restricted to other students for use during testing hours.

“The teachers are caught in a Catch-22 of a sort because they're required to administer this test and their job performance is related to it, but it's a test which they have no control over its content. And it does take away some resources. The computers are all tied up,” Lemon said.

Lemon cited a teacher he heard speak at a meeting, saying he feels that teachers know and understand their students and don't necessarily need a test to help gauge students' individual learning abilities through a test.

Lemon said: “They want to know who's doing well and who isn't and (the teacher) said, 'Well after a few days at the beginning of the year, I know who's going to succeed. I know who needs help. I know who might need after-school study.' For that reason a lot of teachers I believe are frustrated with it. It's trying to articulate something they already know.”

Though Lemon said he sees some merit in administering a test to help the school districts measure student performance, he was mixed on the way MAP is given.

“I think if it's not this test, it will have to be some other test,” he said. “Taking students out of class, I don't know about though. It's unfortunate that it's come to this.”

While Lemon remains on the fence about the issue, Kathleen Smith had no qualms about showing her dedicated opposition. She chose to opt her freshman daughter out of taking the test during school hours.

“I'm not supportive of it,” Smith said. “My daughter had just finished an entire week of finals and exams and she was exhausted and I felt that more testing would lead to test fatigue and loss of instructional time. I think that the level of testing has gotten absurd.”

Smith notes that students in some math classes already have to take in-class final exams as well as the Measurements of Student Progress state exam that students do not need any more ways to be overwhelmed with tests.

“The margin of error exceeds any potential growth and it's not aligned to the state standards or the curriculum so I didn't feel like it would be beneficial,” she said. “I felt the instructional time would be better for my child.”

Smith couldn't say what the best replacement for the MAP should be, but she hoped the district would find a way to work together to figure out the best option for her child.

“I just wish there was more coordination at the state and local levels,” she said. “Our kids are being subjected to tests at the district level and the state level and it's taking up a lot of instructional time. I just wish there was better coordination.”

Heidi Bennett also has a freshman daughter at Ballard. But unlike Smith, Bennett feels the MAP is a significant testing tool to help school districts gauge student learning ability.

“It is really important that the kids take the MAP,” Bennett said. “I think that right now it's just one of many metrics that teachers and parents (use to) know how kids are doing vis-á-vis other kids, other schools. We need to hold the schools and teachers accountable, and until they find something that works better than the MAP, teachers should be using it.”

Due to rising concerns and protests first raised by Garfield High School, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda has set a motion to form a task force composed of teachers, principals and community representatives to review the effectiveness of the MAP.

Bennett said she believed this is a good idea to see if there are any potentially better tests out there, but she maintained that the MAP is currently the best option.

“I'm glad the superintendent is signing up a task force to see if there is a better test out there, but I do think that the MAP has value in assessing where a student is,” Bennett said. “It is aligned with somebody's measurement of that grade level.”

Through these protests at BHS, Bennett said it is legitimate to question the usefulness of the MAP, but she did not agree with going so far as to cancel the test entirely. While she said it is a terrible burden on students in terms of resources, Bennett said she saw the positive in sticking with what they have and testing students.

“You have to weigh the benefits,” Bennett said. “If this is identifying kids who are slipping through the crack, I think it's worth it. I think it's identifying those kids who have the opportunity to take advanced classes and are in the wrong class, or those kids who are just not able to at all master the material. I think there is some real benefit to that.”

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