How Garfield High Defeated the MAP Test

How Garfield High School tipped the scales against a controversial standardized test
Garfield High Seattle magazine MAP test
Teachers Jesse Hagopian and Mallory Clarke successfully boycotted the MAP test at Garfield High School

For students, the start of a new school year can feel like a blank slate, a chance to begin anew. This year, however, Seattle students (along with their parents and teachers) can be forgiven for experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu—the raging debate over standardized testing that dominated the 2012–2013 school year may have shifted focus, but it’s not going away anytime soon.

For those who don’t have little scholars stressing over the test at home, here’s a quick review. In the 2009–10 school year, Seattle Public Schools adopted the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, which measures reading and math skills and serves as a way to track student, teacher and school progress. It is the latest in a string of controversial standardized tests that came into vogue as part of President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program, which also includes the much maligned Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). The WASL is a broad skills assessment tool for grades 3 through 8 and was replaced by the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) test in the spring of 2010. In addition to the challenges about the effectiveness and necessity of the MAP, the circumstances under which Seattle Public Schools adopted the test have been criticized: It was introduced during former superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s tenure while she sat on the board of the Northwest Evaluation Association, which developed and owns the test.

In January, grumbling and sporadic protests came to a head, when teachers at Garfield High School held a press conference to announce their unanimous vote to boycott the MAP. Obligated by their contracts to administer the test, the Garfield teachers risked disciplinary action or suspension. They were backed by many students and students’ parents. Half the teachers at Ballard High School, many at The Center School and the majority at Chief Sealth International High School and Orca K-8 School followed suit. The boycott received both state and national attention as a litmus test for testing around the country.

“It didn’t surprise me at all about the support,” says Phil Sherburne, president of Garfield High’s PTSA. “As parents, we have the same level of frustration. We already have adequate testing in place to evaluate how our kids are performing.”