Teachers Issue Memo on MAP Testing
The teachers at one of the schools in my district issued a memo on MAP testing at the end of last week. The teacher that wrote the memo first handed the memo around to her colleagues and then, this morning, contacted the school principal to discuss her memo. The following is the openning paragraph of the memo:
“Maps [sic] testing is really bad for our students at [school name] because it does not provide valid predictions of CSAP proficiencies nor improvement strategies. Therefore, three rounds of Maps testing per year is an ineffective allocation of [school name] resources. To paraphrase a famous quotation, all that is necessary for the triumph of damaging educational policies is that good people in education keep silent (Practical Strategies)" (This citation is from Alfie Kohn a known polemical figure opposed to any standardized testing)
The memo includes two pages of quotes from anti-standardized testing figures and research data taken out of context. However, in this post I do not intend to point to the errors in the reasoning, but rather reflect on a bigger set of disappointments.
1. MAP testing is has never been used in a high-stakes manner in our district. Student promotion, access to high level classes, or graduation has never been dependent on performance on NWEA MAP tests. MAP testing has always been promoted as an opportunity to understand where a student is in terms of skill development and trajectory.
2. MAP testing was never intended as an assessment that the student takes and then never hears about again. MAP testing is meant to be a used in collaborative discussions between colleagues, with parents, and with students. Students should be part of the greater discussion of performance, progress, and goal setting. Students should not be assessed, receive a score an then never hear about it again.
3. MAP results are powerful to students and teachers because of the Learning Continuum, not because they accurately predict performance on the state-mandated assessment. The Learning Continuum provides a profile of the skills that a student is mastering, is learning, and will be learning in the future. The Learning Continuum is explicit and detailed with respect to skills and vocabulary that the are in the student's realm of proximal development. When teachers only focus on the projection associated with a test like this they will always be disappointed.
4. MAP testing is not intended to replace teacher collaboration on standards-based assessments. Teachers should always work together as a group to understand student proficiency, develop assessments, and analyze the results. These practices will have significant impact on student performance in the long run. MAP should play the role of additional data point and reliable and valid assessment for tracking student growth longitudinally.
Data analysis takes practice and collaboration. However, discounting an assessment because it is standardized and norm referenced is irresponsible. Teachers, students, and parents need to work together to understand student performance and trajectory.