Press conference with Seattle schools’ boss Superintendent Banda.

From Melissa Westbrook’s blog:

 Update:  I reviewed my notes and realized, based on questions about opting out, that I had missed one answer.

I had asked the Superintendent about what would happen to the teachers who boycotted MAP and what would they do with students who opt out (given, for example, that word is that at least 50 Orca students had opted out).

He deflected the teacher question with the “working on solutions” answer but with the students just said that students are able to opt out.  He would not say what any given school would be doing. 

Clearly, he does not want students to opt out or for parents to know they can.  The district probably has given directives to principals in how to handle opt-outs but my experience is that teachers and principals tend to be a little more pragmatic and don’t make it in a big deal. 

End of update.

It was interesting to be sure.  The Superintendent was accompanied by Michael Tolley, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning and Eric Anderson, head of Assessments.  The room was packed with reporters, several of which were student reporters from Hale and Garfield.

Unless otherwise noted, these are Superintendent Banda’s answers and not all the questions were mine.

Q- If teachers boycott MAP, what about those suspensions?
A.  He said “We have to focus on solutions but let them (teachers) know potential consequences.”

Now what was confusing here is that Communications staff had just passed out the two statements – on to the teachers from HR on outcomes and one about the Assessment Taskforce – and yet the Superintendent seemed reluctant to admit that the district had taken a stand.

Q. Is MAP a flawed exam?
A. It’s not perfect, I know that.

Q.  I asked about why the letter to the teacher referenced state law:
A. 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.

(You’ll note they don’t give the specific RCW and when I asked Jonathan Knapp, head of SEA, he just waved it off.  I have no idea, legally, what is the correct answer.

What I do know is that the State Auditor had had serious issues with how the MAP contract got signed and I pointed out to the Superintendent that it seemed wrong for the District to say there were legal issues and yet ignore legal issues from the other side.)

The Superintendent just kind of shrugged that one off and said he didn’t think the State Auditor had said that.

Q.  What about the MAP contact, renewal and costs?
A.  This was a funny one because they all looked at each other before answering.  Mr. Tolley said it was a year-to-year contract and it costs $480,000 per year.

Q. What could replace MAP?
A.  Mr. Tolley said they needed to do the review of the assessment system and think about what will work with the new Common Core standards that are coming in.

Q.  Could this stand-off between teachers and the district hurt the upcoming contract talks?
A.  “I would hope it would not.”

Q.  Is there utility for MAP in middle schools?
A.  Not a lot and generally it is more effective for K-5 or K-8 than secondary schools.

Q.  Why do you think MAP was brought in?
A.  (Banda noted he was not here when it was.)  Our district wasn’t using data and we didn’t have systems in place and it was a push to get something in place.  (This is very interesting because MGJ complained about lack of “systems” in SPS and certainly it was her push to get MAP.)

Q.  Do you think this public disagreement will influence the vote for the levies?
A.  “I don’t know that it will and I hope it wouldn’t.” 

Q.  The question again came up about the usefulness of MAP at the secondary level.
A.  Mr. Tolley stated that they have an MSP and MAP scores at the end of 8th grade and if they didn’t have MAP in 9th, then the students wouldn’t be assessed again until the end of their sophomore year. 

Q.  I followed up and said that made sense except that there was clearly a disconnnect in high school.  Students everywhere do not take it seriously and do not make a real effort.  That is clear.  I asked what Mr. Tolley thought was not happening in schools that there was this disconnect.

A.  Mr. Tolley said students have to take ownership of their learning and they like seeing their RTT scores.  He said he could not say what was being said to students at each high school but there is that power of motivation.  (I think that might work for younger kids but not as much at the high school level with many more distractions.)

There was a follow-up from one person who said her child had never been told about any goals for herself for MAP by her teacher.

A.  Mr. Tolley said again that he didn’t know what was being said out in the schools (and I would have thought Mr. Anderson would have chimed in here but didn’t) but that yes, that should be part of the conversation between teachers and students. 

Q.  What about the charge that MAP does not align with curriculum and that students feel discouraged when they see questions either not about the subject matter or about subject matter they have not been taught?
 A.  Mr. Tolley said MAP is to challenge the level of performance and by being “computer adaptive”, the computer, based on their answers, challenges them higher based on their previous answers.  He said it wasn’t necessarily going to cover everything they learn at school but many kids learn out of school and they want to know WHAT they know (not where they learned it). 

I found this one confusing because it’s one thing to get more challenging questions, it’s another to get questions where you don’t know what the heck is being asked.  And, for students, it’s very discouraging.

Q. What about the recalibration of scores?
A.  Mr. Anderson said that MAP has grown since the district had started using it and this is part of “cycle metrics” and not anything unusual.  He said the “sample of students had changed, not the norms.”

Q.   Mr. Tolley was asked about getting feedback from high school students.
A.  We have not sought that out.

Q.  A student reporter asked if students could be involved on the Taskforce.
A.  The Taskforce is to be comprised of educators and administrators but that they would seek input from parents and students.

Q.  What is the final date for MAP testing?
A.  February 22nd

Q.  What about the issue of downtime for libraries because of MAP testing?
A.  It is a computer test and many schools have computers in the library.

Q.  What about how often it is given?
A.  It initially was 3X a year and now there is the open for just 2X.  For fall this year, 64% of elementaries took it, 13% of high schools and 37% of middle schools.  (These figures are general and not specific; they couldn’t remember the exact numbers.)

Q.  What about issues for kindergarteners?
A.  It’s part of the discussion.   Mr. Anderson said that they do know that kindergartners need more prep before they take the test because many of never used a computer before.  He also said Common Core tests will be computer adaptive.

Q.  What about using MAP as a gatekeeper for Advanced Learning?
A.  We believe we have found many more students eligible for Advanced Learning via MAP.  (I pointed out you can’t get into AL without having taken the MAP and I was told by someone else recently that you can get into AL with an high MAP score and not take another test.  Anyone?)

It was also stated that the review of assessments WOULD include testing for Advanced Learning.

Q. What about teachers and resources to help them use MAP?
A.  It was admitted by Mr. Tolley that they have had a loss of resources and being able to help teachers as much now as they did when it started.

Mr. Banda was cool as a cucumber and said repeatedly that he wanted to find solutions.  I do not think he is gunning for a fight (and I know MGJ would have).

They didn’t seem entirely prepared for a press conference on MAP as they stumbled for some data.  I don’t know if this wasn’t adequate prep or they just didn’t want to give specifics.

My vibe is that no one is in love with MAP.  What they want is data on student performance – good, accurate data.  I’m thinking MAP may be on its way out if this is the level of enthusiasm from the district.  Yes, it might costs new money for a new system but if what we have isn’t working – for anyone in big numbers – then yes, scrap it and find something that does work.

One Reply to “Press conference with Seattle schools’ boss Superintendent Banda.”

  1. I find Mr. Tolley’s response interesting in light of the inclusion of the MAP data on teacher evaluations: “He said it wasn’t necessarily going to cover everything they learn at school but many kids learn out of school and they want to know WHAT they know (not where they learned it). “

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