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January 23, 2013 at 3:12 PM

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Jose Banda must take charge in the Seattle teachers test boycott

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda's first leadership test really should not boil down to a hope and a prayer. Banda hopes teachers refusing to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test change their minds by Feb. 22. He wants them to continue giving the test and work with him to improve it or find a better test. If they ignore his wishes, he could suspend them for 10 days without pay. But he really, really does not want to suspend anyone.

Oh good grief! Tell the teachers to follow the rules. Remind them that when they don't like the rules, their responsibility is to act like professionals and turn to the many non-disruptive channels available - the biggest of which is collective bargaining. Why should he take a tougher approach? Because the scattered boycotts of MAP, which began at Garfield High School and have garnered sympathy from teachers at Ballard High, Orca K-8 and other schools, make for great gossiping on the Internet but they are sorely lacking in meaningful dialogue and targeted solutions.

Make no mistake,teachers make worthwhile points about the shortcomings of MAP, some outlined in this compelling OpEd. Equally compelling arguments made here and here underscore the test's value, especially in identifying academically advanced kids.

But here's the problem: leaders of the boycott offer nothing to take its place.
Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not even a vague notion of how to measure broadly the progress of academically struggling students while looking for a successor to MAP.
A teacher quoted in this story said she relies more on her classroom-based assessments than on the MAP. Can every teacher not only say the same, but prove it with a direct connection between their assessments, a plan of action for struggling learners and growth in student achievement? This is after all supposed to be a boycott inspired by concern about students.

As Banda told the Times Editorial Board this afternoon, "We owe it to our students to have assessments."

This afternoon, I asked Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, what test teachers would prefer over MAP. He said teachers want a more relevant assessment and one that actually tells them something. I agree. What's the name of that test so the district can bring it to Seattle? Knapp said he doesn't pretend to know what's out there and spoke about creating new tests, rather than buying them. Meanwhile, students are assessed based on what? If every student emerged from Seattle high schools with the basic skills necessary to live the kind of lives we want for our own children, this would not be an issue. But too many students do not, making the idea of not having any type of standardized local assessment a non-starter. (The district also uses state assessments and classroom-based tests and quizzes the MAP or its replacement will be an important part of norming the data in order to compare Seattle students with students across the state and nation.)

Banda must step up to his first test as leader. Will he let the perenially disgruntled rush him into a bad decision or will he forcefully remind them that he is already conducting a districtwide look at all assessments and any changes will occur in May as planned and that until then teachers must follow the current directives on MAP? That's not being dictatorial, that's being a leader. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Banda has to stand on principle and make it clear that while he welcomes input, he must decide pedagogical strategy, not have it foisted upon him. And where is the School Board while Banda twists in the wind?


Banda's placing his hope on newly created the Joint Task Force on Assessments and Measuring Progress. But it doesn't force teachers to stop their boycott. What it does is give adults one more meeting to attend.

Banda expects the group to meet at least twice a month from February through May with final recommendations due in May. The effort is timely because the district will need new assessments to match the new Common Core curriculum adopted by Washington and nearly every other state.

Banda expects the group to meet at least twice a month from February through May with final recommendations due in May. The effort is timely because the district will need new assessments to match the new Common Core curriculum adopted by Washington and nearly every other state.

Seattle Public Schools has the reputation of being in constant churn. Banda must calm the waters but at the same time show he is captain of the ship.


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The Times insists the teachers should “follow the rules”, but where... MORE
Ms Varner Could you at least read your own newspaper. Referring to the MAP test, you... MORE
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