20 Missouri Districts Seek Exemption from the Missouri Assessment Program
At the most recent state board of education meeting, 20 school districts requested a federal waiver to be exempt from the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP). Per the federal “Every State Succeeds Act,” all state education agencies must implement a statewide assessment in mathematics and English/language arts (ELA) every year for grades 3–8 and once between grades 9–12. The federal government reviews and approves which tests can be used, and therefore, waiver requests for exemption must go to the federal government.
This waiver is being requested in partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in order to conduct a formal study (called the Demonstration Project) to determine if a new testing system should replace the existing MAP. If the exemption is granted, these districts would use their own test but would not administer the MAP. If the waiver is denied, these twenty districts would use their own test and also administer the MAP.
The MAP test is traditionally given to 3rd through 8th-grade students in Missouri at the end of the school year to evaluate their understanding in mathematics, English/language arts, and science. MAP testing also includes End of Course (EOC) tests for high school students who have completed four chosen subjects—Algebra I (or II if you took Algebra I in middle school), Government, Biology, and English II.
The Demonstration Project will use an adaptive testing system, which will test students and provide timely results three times per year. An adaptive test essentially learns who a test-taker is. As students miss questions, the prompts become easier, and vice versa. Through this process, a computer algorithm can learn a student’s skill set, provide a detailed report to the teacher, remember it, and use that student’s proficiency as a baseline for the next standardized test. In practice, a student will sit down at a computer for 90 minutes to take one 45-minute adaptive test on ELA and one 45-minute adaptive test on mathematics three times per year. Since this system is online and designed for quick feedback, a detailed breakdown of how each student performed will be provided to teachers and parents in order to help students improve throughout the year. The new state assessment will shift from a “lagging” indicator to a “leading indicator.” This system will require 280 less minutes of testing time and will cost $21.60 more per student annually.
Below are the 20 districts that are seeking exemption from the MAP:
- Affton, Branson, Center, Confluence Academies, Fayette, Lebanon, Lee’s Summit, Lewis County, Liberty, Lindbergh, Lonedell, Mehlville, Neosho, Ozark, Parkway, Pattonville, Raymore-Peculiar, Ritenour, Ste. Genevieve, and Shell Knob
These 20 districts roughly represent the demographics of Missouri, with huge districts, rural districts, and a charter school (although low-income students are underrepresented).
The study was created because of doubts about the effectiveness of the MAP; as the Demonstration Project proposal states, “The MAP was never intended as a progress monitoring tool at the student level.” Since the MAP is administered at the end of the year, districts do not receive test results until fall of the following year. Districts claim that makes it very difficult to make adjustments and corrections within the school year if a student is struggling in a certain subject. They also claim that adaptive standardized testing throughout the year would allow teachers and administrators to make adjustments to help students before the next school year. (There are reasons to take these complaints from districts with a grain of salt, which I will get into in my next blog post.)
It will be interesting to see if this trial is successful. The desire to try something different than MAP (which traces its origins back to 1993) raises plenty of questions in itself, and I will discuss those issues also in my next post.