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Updated Monday, January 14, 2013 at 11:16 PM

Some ORCA K-8 teachers join boycott of MAP exams

By Linda Shaw
Seattle Times education reporter

The test boycott that began at Seattle's Garfield High has now spread to a second school — ORCA K-8, an alternative school in Rainier Valley.

Eleven ORCA teachers and instructional assistants are refusing to give exams known as the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), district-required tests that are given two or three times year, according to ORCA teacher Matt Carter.

Last week, teachers at Garfield High did the same, which has sparked support from a number of people and groups across the nation.

Seattle School Superintendent José Banda sent a message to all staff members Monday, defending the exams and asking principals to make sure the tests are completed by Feb. 22.

Banda has not yet said what might happen to teachers who refuse, but in the past the district has disciplined teachers who refused to give some state-required exams.

In his message, Banda said many Seattle educators use MAP tests to help them improve classroom instruction. He also said he will invite principals and teachers to be part of a districtwide review of the MAP exams, which was under way before the Garfield protest started.

"This is the appropriate venue to share concerns and to have an in-depth discussion about the test," Banda said in the message.

The Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit organization that developed and sells the exams, says that MAP is used in 5,200 school districts across the nation.

But teachers at Garfield and ORCA say MAP has a number of problems, ranging from what it covers to how well it measures achievement.

Many of their colleagues are supporting them, including teachers who don't teach subjects or grades in which MAP tests are given and so aren't part of the boycott.

About half of Ballard High's teachers reportedly also have signed letters of support, but they have not yet refused to give the tests.

The tests, taken on computers, are given two or three times a year from kindergarten through ninth grade, with some older students taking them, too.

The protesting teachers say they aren't against testing in general but that these particular exams are a waste of time and money.

Carter said more ORCA teachers would boycott the test if those who teach middle school weren't trying to get a city grant for which one of the requirements is that they administer the MAP math test. Still, he said, many of them signed a support letter.

ORCA's principal will arrange other proctors for students whose parents want them to be tested, Carter said. But he also said many parents plan to ask that their children not take it, which is their right.

The Seattle Education Association, in a meeting of its school representatives Monday, approved a motion sponsored by Ballard High teacher Noam Gundle that, among other things, called for union support for any teacher who refuses to give the exams, asked the district to not discipline them, and said the district should end MAP testing as soon as possible. Gundle said the vote was nearly unanimous.

A similar motion passed two years ago, Gundle said, but little has changed since then. The union's leaders already have expressed support for protesting teachers.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @LShawST


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