New Option For MAP Test Sparks Clashing Opinions

Elise Sommers, Editor in Chief

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Standardized testing has long been at odds with the student-driven philosophy of the Open Program. This year, when the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests were administered to freshmen on September 18th and 19th, the ninth grade Open team took action.

The MAP comes from the Northwest Evaluation Association. It is aimed to test academic growth in students, and are given to students at South and around the district twice a year.

“It’s designed to look at whether students are at grade level and making progress,” said Open social studies teacher Rob Panning-Miller. “The idea of taking it multiple times is to see if students are making progress towards the following year. But it’s not a very good measure.”

Open teachers Rob Panning-Miller, Michelle Ockman, and Melinda Bennett addressed their concerns in a weekly update to parents on September 8. They informed the roughly 135 parents or guardians who receive the emails that the MAP test would occur, and that they had the option to opt their child out, through a simple process. They went on to state their opinion about the test.

“Here we’re simply trying to empower parents the way they should be,” Panning-Miller stated. “And part of it is because these tests are really not good measures of what they’re supposedly trying to measure.”

According to these teachers, besides not fulfilling its purpose, the tests also have a detrimental effect on students.

“The effect has mostly been that it interferes with what’s happening in class,” Panning-Miller argued. “It’s not a very useful measure . . . Teachers collect their own data which is much more meaningful to them and to the students. So it’s really been something that has simply taken time away from the classroom, it causes some students anxiety which is unnecessary but it doesn’t affect their grade or graduation or college.”

Michelle Ockman added that “it takes away from computer lab time from many classes because it usually books up two labs for a total of four whole days, if not more.” And, “as parents ourselves there’s some testing that we opt out of for our own kids as well.”

As of Wednesday, 94 of the 135 Open students had opted out of tests, according to Ockman.

“I was ranting on about it to my mom when I got her to opt me out, because it’s a very very pointless test,” said Open freshman Destiny Bilges. “It gives the district just another reason to list us as numbers instead of people.”

Freshman Kowsar Mohamed also opted out of the testing. “Well, you could have had more experience in the classroom than just taking a test over what you already know,” Mohamed stated. “I didn’t think it was necessary.”

The week of testing, the District stepped in. They stated their opinion that standardized testing is a valuable part of education, and encouraged students to take the test in an email to staff. An opt-out form was also sent to be filled out by parents and returned within a day, before the tests began.

“We didn’t find out until the day before yesterday, Monday evening, late, that we had to give these out,” Ockman stated. “So we gave them out yesterday and told the kids to make sure that they brought them back.”

Interim principal Dr. Willarene Beasley affirmed the District’s actions. “As interim principal, I support the District’s policy on testing.” She went on to say that, “We’re all here for a common cause, and it’s for you students.”

For this round of testing, emails from parents as well as forms were honored, because of the short time frame. Although the MAP has been completed for this season, the issue of standardized testing as a tool for education is an issue that is here to stay.

Ockman stated from the experience; “Overall I think South High staff support less testing and more class time, is what’s coming out of this.”


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