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Seattle teachers go on strike, refuse to test students

Teachers at a public high school in Seattle have refused to administer a standardized reading and mathematics test to their students, out of fear that the results might reflect poorly on them.

The teachers claim that the MAP tests students on material not covered in the curriculum, and takes up valuable class time. They are also wary of government proposals to tie teacher pay and employment to merit via testing results — a proposition that led hundreds of Chicago teachers to go on strike last September.

Administrators continued negotiations with teachers this week, but were unable to reach a compromise. Jose Banda, superintendent of Seattle public schools, has asked the principal and assistant principals to begin administering the Measure of Academic Progress test to students, in lieu of the 80 teachers at Garfield High who are boycotting it.

“Regardless of whether we think testing is good or bad, it’s really about the children and making sure we are able to identify any potential gaps in their learning,” said Banda in a statement.

The strike has allowed roughly 75 percent of ninth-graders at Garfield High to play hooky during testing. Since parents have the right to refuse to let their children take the tests, and many parents support the teachers union, only about a quarter of the 400 night graders at Garfield High will actually take the MAP.

“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry in a statement.

The MAP test is administered on a computer. Each student’s testing experience is unique. For instance, if a student gets the first question wrong, the test provides him with an easier question next. The test can be given multiple times a year in order to show whether students are improving.

A spokesperson for the Northwest Evaluation Association, which created the MAP, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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