These concerns have been compiled from various sources including my own observations, concerns shared with me by other parents in various elementary schools in the district, as well as feedback from teachers and students.
· The new MAP test overlaps with much of the testing and assessments already being done. We keep adding tests, but don’t remove any, leading to TOO MUCH testing, and taking up valuable instruction time and school resources. SRI, reading assessments, Fast Math, MEAP, NWEA MAP, classroom assessments all conducted within the first 6-8 weeks or so of each school year.
· People are concerned that the upcoming Tech Millage will be used to upgrade equipment for the primary purpose of supporting this increased testing. Many parents willing to support a tech bond for the purpose of improved education of our kids, are much less likely to support a bond used for more testing of our kids.
· We understand that Lansing is beginning to require comprehensive teacher evaluation overhauls. However, the MAP was never designed to be used for this purpose, and has no statistical validity in this context, by NWEA’s own report (see attached). If this test was added to the district to fulfill this requirement, it will be flawed data. If this test was added strictly for the purpose of evaluating children, it is redundant and provides questionable benefit for very high cost, in dollars, resources and time.
· The MAP test is currently administered three times a year, leading to narrowing of curriculum and more “teaching to the test.” The frequency of this testing forces teachers into a linear pattern of teaching, completely opposite the project-based, in depth style of teaching often referred to as “Best Practices.” Ann Arbor Open is an extremely successful and very popular program precisely because it emphasizes project-based, in-depth learning. The Board and the AAPS administration have repeatedly indicated that they would like to take the things that are “working well” at Ann Arbor Open and Community, and help bring them into other classrooms throughout the district. This test does precisely the opposite, further decreasing time for pursuing children’s interests, or delving deeply into subjects of interest or relevance.
· The fact that the students’ scores are immediately visible to the students following the test leads to comparisons, competition, and anxiety, all of which are unnecessary and counter-productive, and work to undermine attempts to create cooperative, collaborative, safe learning environments in our classrooms. The AAPS has clearly chosen NOT to use grades in the elementary schools, and this was done for a reason. It is well-known that focus on letter grades leads to extrinsic motivation instead of intrinsic love of learning, and these MAP scores have already produced anxiety in kids, and have altered cohesion in classrooms.
· Feedback from some of the children taking the test reveals that some kids have already learned that the test can be “shortened” and made easier by just answering randomly. Other students have found themselves sitting for a single test-taking session for a full two hours or even longer, which is an excessive amount of time in elementary school.
· The cost for purchasing and continuing to run this test, in dollars, is simply not worth the dubious “value” it provides. Our dollars are slim and must be utilized to the absolute best interests of the children, and this test is not that.
There are several points upon which action can be taken immediately, and could help the Board elicit more feedback and information about this Pilot program, and soften some of the consequences in the meantime.
Ideally, I believe the Board should consider putting this test on “HOLD,” and not utilize it next year, until it can more fully evaluate the test’s unintended consequences, and it’s validity in the context of that for which it was purchased (state mandates for teacher evaluations).
Immediately, I believe the following could and should be done:
1. Drop the test from three times a year to two. Drop testing for K-2 age students. (if the test continues to be given)
2. Insist that the NWEA remove the line of code that enables students to see their scores. As the consumer, we can refuse the product if it is not so altered.
3. Consider inviting regional and local experts on Teacher education and effectiveness to discuss current understanding of what comprehensive teacher evaluations should look like.
4. Seriously consider discontinuing one or more of the overlapping fall student assessments, if the MAP is to be used again next year
And, of utmost importance:
5. Circulate a FEEDBACK SURVEY to all teachers, principals, parents and students. This test was purchased as a Pilot, and the only way to evaluate a pilot is to get feedback. The survey should be anonymous, so that teachers and administrators feel they can speak freely without consequence.
I want to thank the Board for their time tonight, and their time in considering this document.[Julie did give the board her contact information as well. If you want to contact her, send me a note and I will forward it along.]