Earlier this month, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School announced that they would be boycotting the (Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test system. The also released a letter explaining why.
The teachers wrote, “…MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress…It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”
By standing up to this flawed testing program, the Garfield High School teachers have sparked a national movement in opposition to the MAP Test. The effort has received the support of nationally renowned pro-public education individuals and groups including the American Federation of Teachers, California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, Change the Stakes, Diane Ravitch, FairTest, Matt Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, National Education Association, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools and many more.
Over the same period, but at the other end of the spectrum, education officials in Hartford, along with their corporate education reform allies, have committed even more money, time and effort utilizing the very test that the Seattle teachers and their supporters are condemning.
Sarah Darer Littman, a CTNewsjunkie commentary writer and pro-public education blogger, has done an extraordinary job writing about the latest counterproductive efforts in Hartford.
In two recent commentary pieces, Littman has highlighted the ongoing effort to saddle Hartford’s students and teachers, and Connecticut’s taxpayers, with this MAP testing outrage.
To understand the underhanded, heavy-handed and behind the scenes maneuvering that “education reformers” are engaged in, read Beware of Foundations Bearing Gifts and An Expensive ‘Gift’ for Taxpayers Without Accountability.
The following passages summarize the problem;
“In August, the [Hartford Board of Education] was asked to renew the contract for the Northwest Evaluation Association MAP program for two years at a cost of $592,443, or $11.50 per student. MAP, or Measures of Academic Progress, was piloted with the 9th grade last year, but this year was extended K-12. At the time the school board was asked to renew the contract with the rollout of the program, the source of funding was described as “special funds”, with no mention of the Gates grant.
The full board was only notified of the grant in October. But because the money is being administered through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which will receive $50,000 per annum of the three year grant period to manage it, the school board was not given the opportunity to vote on the matter despite the cost implications for Hartford Public Schools and state taxpayers.
One of my major questions regarding the Gates grant and the impact on HPS has to do with technology resources. According to the NWEA technology requirements, each student requires a workstation or client and these must have adequate and stable Internet connectivity for the test to be successfully administered. “NWEA requires a persistent connection to the wireless access point, free of interruptions, to successfully run Test Taker. Any outages in the connection, regardless of how brief, may cause errors during testing or require re-testing particular students.”
Although the Gates grant budgets $592,443 over the three-year period for license fees for NWEA computer adaptive assessments, there is a mere $34,500 budgeted for computers and equipment, and that goes to Achievement First for “Technology for Residency Program for School Leadership.” As far as HPS goes, there is zero in the grant for the implementation of any technology.
According to Ms. Frederick, “HPS has been planning for the MAP testing for three years including extensive training for teachers and administrators in order to ensure all were and are prepared for the administration. In addition we have conducted a technology readiness survey to determine the level of resources available in each school. Our goal is to ensure that all schools are fully resourced to implement the test during the testing period. Purchasing computers for the schools that are the most in need is an ongoing priority in the district. When dealing with technology, issues can and do come up. When that happens, we have a system in place for resolving the issue immediately. To date, we have had very few problems administering the test district-wide.”
Ms. Frederick continued, “In administering the test, schools are very creative in using the resources they have while ensuring there is little disruption for other students. Many students take the test in a dedicated computer lab, others take the test in their classroom using either classroom computers or laptops. Several schools have laptop carts that move from classroom to classroom allowing students to remain in their classroom to take the test. In year one of the test, we have been pleased with the results both in participation and how successful schools have been in administering the test. We continue to evaluate and plan for improvement.”
Something about “creative use of resources” sounded the alarm bells with me, particularly because I’ve been hearing concerns from media and technology specialist friends in wealthy school districts about having adequate resources to implement SBAC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium adaptive tests that will replace the CMT/CAPT in 2014-15.
I put out feelers to teachers in the trenches to try and ascertain the picture. Most were not willing to go on the record for fear of retribution. But William Morrison, a social studies teacher at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School, painted a somewhat less-than-rosy picture in telling me that the testing was problematic because of bandwidth problems.
Another teacher at a Hartford magnet school told me the school’s Wifi is turned off during assessments in order to limit bandwidth to testing computers. This means students and teachers not taking the assessments cannot use tablet devices. Both of the school’s laptop carts are used for testing for 3-4 weeks, making them unavailable for student projects.”
And the list of problems associated with even taking the tests goes on and on, not to mention the fact that the test results themselves are of little use.
If parents and taxpayers want to know the truth about this MAP testing program, they should start by reading up on the Scrap the MAP effort that is sweeping the nation. Begin by checking out the Scrap the MAP Blog.
And then ask your state and local elected officials why Hartford and Connecticut are moving in exactly the wrong direction on this vital education issue.