Standoff escalates over test boycott

Jan 24, 2013

The standoff over a series of tests mandated by Seattle Public Schools heated up Wednesday, as another high school joined a growing boycott of the tests and district leaders threatened protesters with suspension.

Teachers say the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, assess material not covered in class, give poor results and swallow up teaching time. Four schools have rebelled against the tests, with Chief Sealth High the latest to join. Superintendent Jose Banda made clear Wednesday what the consequences of that boycott could be: up to 10 days' suspension without pay.

But he extended an olive branch along with the stick: he announced a task force would form immediately to assess the test’s effectiveness, and begin meeting in February.

“[I’m] not trying to draw a line in the sand. I do think that we have an obligation to let them know of potential consequences, and I think that was the intent of the letter that came out of HR. It is my intent to engage our teachers,” Banda said.  

About 100 teachers and supporters gathered outside of district headquarters after Banda's remarks, chanting "scrap the MAP!" They said they were unswayed by his call for the task force.

“We have been fighting this for two and a half years. And again, we’re being asked to wait until a review can be made. We have waited. And we’ve waited. And we’ve waited a little bit more. And it kind of looks like the waiting is over,” said Kris McBride, the academic dean at Garfield High School, where the protest began.

Teachers have until February 22 to give the tests, according to the directive from the district. Several protesters said the threatened suspensions wouldn't change their minds.