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Seattle Superintendent threatens punitive actions against boycotting teachers: A Seattle teacher responds, others around the country write letters in protest

Yesterday a letter was sent to all of the public schools in Seattle from Paul Apostle, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, requiring that the letter be read to all teachers on staff.

To follow is the body of the letter:

Dear Principals,

I am writing today to help provide support and guidance around the recent issue of certain teachers refusing to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to our students.

We ask that each principal by the end of the school day provide a clear directive to all administrative and teaching staff that the MAP assessment must be administered to students of tested subjects on the timeline established by you, their building administrator. State law requires that teachers implement a course of study in accordance with District directives. Administering the MAP to students of tested subjects is a District directive.

If a teacher refuses to administer the MAP assessment after a clear direction by you, such conduct is considered insubordination. When a staff member engages in insubordination, such action will lead to appropriate disciplinary action as outlined in School Board Policy 5281 Staff Disciplinary Action and Discharge. Previously, the discipline imposed by the District when a teacher refused to administer a required assessment was a 10-day, unpaid suspension.

If you have staff who have either not administered the test on the date required by you or have given you clear notice that they do not intend to administer the test, you are required to give that staff person this communication, preferably in a letter or email that you send and hand to them:

Dear ________:

State law requires that teachers implement a course of study in accordance with District directives. As you are aware, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a District assessment that teachers are required to administer. You are receiving this communication because you are required to administer this assessment. Based on information that I possess, I believe you have either refused to or have declined to administer the MAP assessment.

For staff who disagree with MAP assessment, I acknowledge that you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Your disagreement with the appropriateness of the MAP assessment, however, does not excuse your obligation as a certificated employee to provide this assessment consistent with District directives.

Thus, I am specifically requiring that you administer the MAP assessment by the Feb. 22, 2013 deadline, notwithstanding your apparent disagreement with the District’s decision to require this assessment. Your refusal to administer the assessment consistent with District requirements and this directive will lead to discipline. Discipline that has been imposed for such insubordination in the past has included a 10-day, unpaid suspension. Please contact me immediately if you have concerns over getting this assessment done by Feb. 22, 2013.

Sincerely,

__________________

Principal, School Name

One teacher responded to the letter with their own letter to the superintendent:

Mr. Banda,

Thank you for your letter. I hereby announce my intention to join with those many of my colleagues around Seattle Public Schools, and boycott the MAP test.

As per that other letter from Human Resources Director Paul Apostle yesterday, please deliver, at your earliest convenience, a letter outlining the 10-day suspension without pay I’ll be receiving for this action.

Thanks so very much,

After the letter from the district got onto the internet last night, people from around the country began to write letters to Seattle Superintendent Banda. Here are a few:

Superintendent Banda,

I have just heard that you have threatened teachers who are opposed to administering the MAP test with a 10-day suspension without pay. Is this true?

I strongly advise you not to do that.

When our previous superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, took a hard line against our teachers, it did not end well for anyone, including her. We don’t need any more of that style of confrontational ‘leadership’ in our district. We need collaboration and respect for our teachers and families.

Seattle teachers and parents like myself have told our district leaders for the past two years that there are problems with MAP. But nothing has been done to address these legitimate concerns. (15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP® Test—ASAP)

You have an opportunity here to seriously and honestly address what is a national issue of excessive, expensive and unnecessary testing of American public school children, and the imposition of high-stakes tests that are also misused to evaluate teachers.

These are not best practices. These are bad practices.

I urge you instead to begin an immediate dialogue with the teachers and families of SPS about the use and value of the MAP test product and seriously consider phasing it out as soon as possible, without taking punitive action against these brave and principled teachers.

I urge you to make Seattle a national leader in sensible and intelligent educational practices, and reassess and discontinue excessive testing of our kids. The nation is watching Seattle right now; let’s offer a shining example.

Already our children are being fed a veritable alphabet soup of tests, beginning in kindergarten: MAP, MSP, EOC, HSPE, SAT, ACT and, new this year, tests tied to Common Core State Standards. It is too much.

Sue Peters

**************************************************************************

Dear Superintendent Banda

I understand that you plan to punish teachers in the Seattle Public Schools who refuse to administer the MAP test. As a public school parent I believe that would be a serious mistake and I urge you to reconsider this action. Reliance on high stakes standardized testing is destroying teaching and learning in public schools throughout the country; it is perverting my public school children’s relationships with their teachers and distracting from what constitutes authentic education. Further, the form and function of these tests are profoundly and negatively conditioning our children’s understanding of the world, narrowing the focus to what is tested. Finally, it is driving some of our most creative and talented teachers out of our public schools.

The brave and committed teachers in Seattle who are refusing to administer the MAP, which – like all such high stakes standardized tests – takes time away from critical classroom instruction and specialized programming, are heroes to parents and teachers from all over the nation. Their stand reminds us that the moment has come that we as a nation must recognize and reject the destructive role that high stakes testing now plays in public education.

As a proud public school parent, who is part of a growing national movement against high stakes standardized testing, I applaud the teachers in your district for their courage and resistance. They are providing a powerful example for teachers and parents throughout the nation by demonstrating true bravery and commitment to their students.

Sincerely

Tory Frye, NYC public school parent of two

****************************************************************************

Dear Superintendent Banda

It has come to my attention that you plan to discipline teachers in the Seattle Public Schools who refuse to administer the MAP test, In my judgment, that is a grave mistake. Over testing is undermining teaching and learning in public schools throughout the country, and driving some of our most talented teachers out of the public schools. The teachers in Seattle who are refusing to administer this high stakes test, which takes time away from vital classroom instruction, are heroes to teachers all over the nation. Their action should be a moment where school officials in your city take stock of the role testing in shaping instruction and consider whether you are doing grave damage to the quality of Seattle public schools by using student test scores to assess teachers

As a scholar and teacher who is part of a growing national movement against excessive testing, I applaud the teachers in your district you propose to penalize. They are providing a powerful example for teachers throughout the nation

Sincerely

Mark D Naison

Professor of African American Studies and History

Fordham University

*********************************************************************

Dear Superintendent Banda,

You wrote, “In the meantime, MAP remains a required element of our overall student testing process. We expect school staff to fulfill their responsibilities and obligations to administer this test in a timely manner. Principals, I am asking for your leadership in ensuring the required MAP tests are completed by Feb. 22 in accordance with current district practice.”

I would ask you to stop your veiled threats to the teachers of your district.

Teachers from around the country are ready to support the actions of the teachers at Garfield. Seattle has a history of not handling labor protest correctly. The Seattle General Strike of 1919 was a five-day general work stoppage by over 65,000 workers in the city of Seattle. This strike was in response to mistreatment of workers. The 1999 Seattle WTO Protests were in response to those in authority not listening to workers and activists concerns.

I would not want to see Seattle 2013 become the a battle between workers and administration. Show the courage to stand with the workers, the teachers who are the front lines daily fighting for what is best for students. Be a hero to the teachers, the parents and the students of Seattle and the whole nation.

*************************************************************************

Dear Superintendent Banda,

I hear you are planning to punish the brave teachers who choose protecting children over meaningless tests. I wish you would strongly reconsider. These tests have become abusive to children and their teachers and are eroding the fabric of our public education system. As a teacher educator I prepare my students to deal with ethical responsibilities and dilemmas. As an early childhood educator, our first ethical principal is

“Above all, we shall not harm children. We shall not participate in practices that are emotionally damaging, physically harmful, disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitative, or intimidating to children. This principle has precedence over all others in this Code” (NAEYC Code, 2011).

The amount of standardized testing being forced on our students can be emotionally damaging and is certainly disrespectful. Learning cannot be measured solely through a test. Assessment is part of the teaching and learning cycle but standardized testing is only one type of assessment and it’s being abused because it is profitable to some but, at the expense of many of our children.

I believe that the teachers who have said no to these tests have done so with the best interest of the children driving their decision. I trust them to do what is right.  And I think you should trust them to.

***************************************************************************

There are many more letters being sent and posted. I predict that Banda will receive hundreds of letters by the end of this week. All shows of support are greatly appreciated by the teachers in Seattle. Superintendent Banda’s e-mail address is superintendent@seattleschools.org.

@ the chalkface radio this evening at 6:00 PM PST there will be a special edition show with Seattle parent, Demian Godon, and SEA Substitute Association President, discussing the MAP test boycott and why both are part of that movement.

At 6:30 PM there will be a call-in discussion about Superintendent Banda’s threat to the teachers. All are welcome to participate.

Dora Taylor

3 comments on “Seattle Superintendent threatens punitive actions against boycotting teachers: A Seattle teacher responds, others around the country write letters in protest

  1. seattleducation2011
    January 24, 2013

    Here is a letter that I came across in a list serv:

    Dear Superintendent Banda and school board members,

    Thank you for all the hard work you put in on behalf of our students.

    I am writing to express my support for the teachers boycotting the MAP
    test and to urge you to take NO disciplinary action against them.
    Should the district choose to take disciplinary action against
    boycotting teachers, I intend to opt my children out of the Spring MAP
    test. This is not a decision I make lightly, because the district uses
    the test as a gatekeeper for advanced learning placement. This is,
    however, unsound educational practice, and I would ask the district to
    discontinue it as well. The MAP is a fine test for some purposes, but
    measurement error renders it unsuitable for teacher evaluation and
    student placement.

    The step you have taken in establishing a task force is commendable,
    but it is rather too little and two late. The district has heard and
    largely ignored community complaints for several years. However, since
    you are going to have a task force anyway, my recommendation is to ask
    every member to read the NWEA Technical Manual and to take a course in
    statistics to make sure they understand the concepts of measurement
    error and confidence level.

    Many policymakers are excited about the idea of using data to drive
    instruction, but without regard to the accuracy of the data. If all
    you are looking for is data, there are cheaper and faster ways to get
    it. Might I suggest the nutritional information on a box of Rice
    Krispies? It is about as accurate for the purposes of teacher
    evaluation and won’t use up our library resources or tutor hours.

    Moving forward, I would ask the district to discontinue all
    high-stakes testing, both for teacher evaluations and for student
    placement.

    Yours truly,

    Parent of children in Seattle Public Schools

  2. Pingback: Apostle To Apostates: Seattle’s Test Boycotters Are Read The Riot Act | saveourcola

  3. mahlness
    January 24, 2013

    Here’s what I sent:

    Dear Superintendent Banda,

    I’m writing in response to the confrontational letter sent to schools today indicating teachers who refuse to administer the MAP can face up to a 10 day suspension without pay. I believe this stance will only lead to more polarization and further entrenched positions.

    I taught elementary school in SPS for 29 years and just retired. I remember sitting shoulder to shoulder with John Stanford over lunch one day. The huge table was surrounded by executives from the private sector, heads of nonprofits, and SPS administrators. I was there with one other classroom teacher. The General knew it was important to hear not only from his other commanders, but also his troops. I will never forget the gesture. And I know our teacher input made a difference to the outcome of that meeting – we talked about things nobody else considered. (it was a tech levy planning session)

    I urge you to reach out immediately to the staff at Garfield High School, and arrange a time to talk with them. No principals, no administrators – just you and the teachers. They are indeed the ones who understand the test better than anyone else. That gesture would go a long way to showing Seattle is a forward thinking school district that values its teaching corps. The educational eyes of the nation are on Seattle right now. I believe you and the Garfield teachers are reasonable, intelligent, and caring people who can find a way out of the mess we are in.

    Waiting for a task force in the spring is not a viable option.

    A final thought…. please remember that every single kindergarten student in Seattle Schools will go to their school’s computer lab for FOUR HOURS of MAP testing in Jan/Feb. I do not think that is something anybody who cares about children can feel good about.

    Thanks for your time and service – Mark

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