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School test

Students in Madison’s middle and elementary schools will have one less standardized test this year.

The Madison School District is not having students take the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, assessment this winter, reducing the use of the test to twice a year.

Tim Peterson, director of assessment, said the decision to drop the midyear MAP test came from conversations among staff last year about the balance between assessing student performance and providing them with instruction.

“You need to have assessment to help improve instruction. Instruction is double-checked by assessment,” Peterson said. “When there’s no longer a balance there, one drives the other in one way too far on the continuum.”

He said district officials recognized there was a “preponderance” of tests designed to evaluate students’ long-term knowledge and understanding of topics, such as midterm and end-of-semester exams, MAP tests or other standardized tests.

Given this, it was decided the winter MAP test is something the district doesn’t really need, Peterson said.

Instead, district officials want to move to more formative assessments, which generally cover shorter time frames of learning, can come in more informal manners, such as asking students by a show of hands if they understand a concept, and gives a teacher a better ability to determine what areas individual students needs further help on, Peterson said.

“We’re working to continue to build up information that teachers can use right away in their classrooms,” Peterson said. “While testing fatigue plays in the background, that’s not a driver of what this decision was.”

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Students in grades 3-8 have taken the MAP assessment, which covers subjects of reading and math, three times a year for at least the past six school years, Peterson said.

While the winter test, which usually took place in January or February, is going away, the fall and spring MAP tests remain.

The fall test provides a baseline measurement on student proficiency at the start of the school year. It can also predict how a student will do on the state’s standardized exam later in the year, Peterson said.

In the spring, the MAP assessment acts in an evaluative function, he said, giving schools an idea of how successful they were at teaching children.

The winter test was used more as a measure to gauge whether students are on-track, Peterson said.

The reduction in administering MAP assessments, which is developed by testing provider NWEA, does not mean a cost savings, Peterson said. The district purchases licenses from the test provider that allows students to be tested one to four times a year at the same total cost.

“You need to have assessment to help improve instruction. Instruction is double-checked by assessment. When there’s no longer a balance there, one drives the other in one way too far on the continuum.” Tim Peterson, director of assessment

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