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Originally published Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 4:01 PM

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Op-ed: MAP is the anti-standardized test

The Measures of Academic Progress test that Garfield High School teachers are boycotting provides important insight about students’ academic needs, writes guest columnist Matt Chapman.

Special to The Times

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THOSE who graduated from high school two decades ago took multiple tests: the President’s Physical Fitness Test, the SAT, a driver’s license exam. Now those graduates’ children are also taking multiple tests. Across generations, testing has had a prominent place in the public school experience.

Unfortunately, in this post-No Child Left Behind environment, students are subject to high-stakes exams that currently have the teachers concerned. Teachers at Garfield High School recently voted to boycott the Measures of Academic Progress test.

Educators are rightfully concerned. In a decadelong quest for accountability, we have lost sight of the real purpose of assessments in the schools, and the mission of public schools themselves — student learning. Teachers at Garfield are concerned with issues such as the time testing takes and how the resultant data is used in the classroom.

That’s why organizations like the Northwest Evaluation Association provide assessments, including Measures of Academic Progress, to support schools in their improvement of learning. We offer tests that provide educators and parents with insight into the academic needs of our children so we can ensure that they stay on a path to success.

One only needs to speak with the thousands of educators who use MAP to know its value. In district after district, teachers use MAP to assess student learning and progress. Educators use it to improve their craft, tailoring instruction to meet the specific needs of the students in their classroom. They use it build a better learning environment for all students, one that addresses the whole child and the entire student.

In many ways, MAP is the anti-standardized test. By design, the MAP test adapts in difficulty as a student takes it, and the result is a precise measurement of student achievement that is tailored to each individual child.

Developed by researchers, educators and psychometricians, MAP yields immediate insight for teachers while they still have an opportunity to teach and influence a child’s learning. This student-focused design empowers teachers to create optimal learning conditions for children in schools across the nation. For countless teachers, MAP is a trusted resource for differentiating instruction and helping students take ownership of their learning.

We see those successes in Hartford, Conn., in Milwaukee, Wis., in Montgomery County, Md., and, yes, in Seattle. In each of these communities, and in the more than 5,200 school districts that use MAP, we see empowered teachers with the tools to see each student as an individual. We see educators committed to ensuring that every student is a success.

When one sees the track record of MAP, how it has been embraced by thousands of educators across the country, and how it has helped improve student learning for countless kids, it is heartening to know the positive impact the Northwest Evaluation Association is having on our schools.

We understand that some educators are concerned that students are being over-tested and are growing more frustrated as student performance is included as part of teacher evaluation. Measuring the effectiveness of a teacher or principal is a complicated endeavor, one that cannot be adequately determined based on just one test.

Assessment data can inform teacher evaluation, but it cannot be the primary factor. Multiple measures are necessary to understanding the needs of all students and providing a fair system for reviewing how teachers are performing.

We must work together to build educator performance measures that capture all of the factors that matter about good teaching and learning. We should not deny measures that effectively measure student learning, nor should we take away tools like MAP that empower teachers and improve classrooms. We should use MAP to encourage and support that good teaching.

We should support teacher-evaluation models that appropriately weigh assessment results over time and support teachers with opportunities for professional development.

We believe Seattle Public Schools’ approach in working with its teachers is creating a more balanced system that uses a variety of data around performance in the classroom.

Matt Chapman is president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Evaluation Association.


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