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Seattle Schools Chief Scales Back Controversial MAP Test

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The standardized test that inspired boycotts by teachers across Seattle School District will be scaled back next school year.

In a letter to district staff today, Superintendent Jose Banda announced that the Measures of Academic Progress test will still be required in kindergarten though eighth grade, but it will be optional at the high school level.

The district requires that students in Seattle Public Schools take the MAP test in reading and math two or three times a year, from kindergarten through ninth grade or beyond, to measure students' progress throughout the year.

In January, teachers at Garfield High School announced they were boycotting the MAP test schoolwide, calling it a waste of time and money that doesn’t give teachers useful information.

Smaller groups of teachers at other Seattle schools joined the boycott, as did many students and their families.

The protest got international attention and support.

Now Banda says he’s taken the newly-released recommendations of a district task force on student assessment, and won’t make high schools give the test anymore. "The recommendation that came out of the task force is that it was not as effective for high school-age students," Banda said.

Garfield history teacher and boycott leader Jesse Hagopian welcomed the news. "The teachers at Garfield High School are overwhelmed with joy," Hagopian said. “I think this is a real vindication of the movement that was started at Garfield High School by teachers but was quickly joined by parents and students at our school, and around the city, and really around the country.”

The movement revolved around the notion that testing is taking over K-12 education.

Starting next year in Seattle, high schools will still have to test students who are known to be below grade level in reading and math, but they can vote as a staff to use other assessments instead of the MAP.

The test will still be required in earlier grades where the superintendent says the task force found it’s still useful for teachers and administrators.

Hagopian says that means the fight isn’t over. He says buying the test again this year would divert dollars he’d rather see used for approaches he says genuinely improve student learning; like tutors, smaller class sizes and reading coaches.

The school board still needs to approve next year’s contract with the MAP test vendor.

Year started with KUOW: 2008