Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Real Life NWEA MAP Experiences, Part I

An acquaintance emailed me about her experience with her son taking the NWEA MAP test. I have only edited it to keep it anonymous. I appreciate that she took the time to write up this story.

My son is a dead-average reader. He's in second grade, and every single report card has had him right at the reading level that is the benchmark for that report period. If the goal is level I, he's at I -- not J, not H. 

[Editor's Note: This is how the Ann Arbor schools report on young readers on the report cards. . . as a Level A, B, C, etc. reader.]

When he entered 1st grade, he took the MAP test and scored in the 40th percentile. Fine. At the end of 1st grade, he scored in the 54th percentile. While the test wasn't sharing new information, it was confirming what we already knew. (His math scores, by the way, are quite high, but again, that's not info from the test, that's the test confirming life.)

So, we get his first report card in November (And whose brilliant idea is it to test kids in September and tell parents how they did in November? Is it some kind of secret?) 

[Editor's Note: Not only that, but the NWEA MAP reporting to parents is entirely useless. If the whole "strength" of the MAP test is in its detailed information, that does not come through in the reporting, which provides no detail at all.]

His reading percentile was 6. This was surprising -- not at all in line with what we were seeing in real life, and not at all aligned with his report card, which continued to show him reading right at grade level. So I took a closer look.

Not only was his score (not percentile, but the actual score) quite low for his grade (and remember, one of the "great" things about MAP is that the scale stays the same year to year, so you should be able to see growth from year to year), but it was lower than it was at the beginning of 1st grade. According to this test, he had lost reading ability in the last year -- and actually a significant amount.

OK, so I know, his teacher knows, the principal knows that that's bad data. I don't know what happened the day he took the test, but his score didn't reflect what he could do. 

But consider that his teacher and the school will still be judged by a score that is obviously wrong. His last year's teacher will still have a kid from whom she allegedly removed the ability to read. On the flip side, his teacher this year will look like a miracle worker, because next time he takes the test he'll probably score in the average range -- what growth!!

And this is one of the big problems with using test scores to measure kids, teachers or schools. 

There's no opportunity to do a reality check.

It reminds me of once when I brought my son to the doctor and they measured him and said he had shrunk by about an inch. I could not convince the PA to remeasure him, that that could not be right. The data is never wrong. It must be me. Or him. Even when the facts and common sense disagree.

[Editor's Note: How about sending the entire Board of Education your concerns or a story about the NWEA MAP test? Email them at: Alternatively, sign our petition.]


  1. I really like that story, not like like it, just appreciate what it's trying to illustrate. The other thing is that when things are done so hastily,, without careful, impartial as possible, input, it's very easy to use the data to make up a completely incorrect narrative. And then what? Ruth, would you remove NWEA and MEAPS? I know you've said before what you would do, but can you reiterate? I'd get rid of all of these tests, in favor of a sane core curriculum, and teachers that correct the schoolwork regularly, with good individualized feedback, instead of having the kids in the class correct each others's work,at the elementary level which I've seen and don't agree with at all.

  2. Saw this in the September 2013 link backs, and have to say my son had a similar score trajectory...he scored 96th and 92nd percentiles in reading and math in the fall, and 2nd and 5th percentiles in the winter. I thought they had changed the scoring system. His teacher really extracted a lot of learning from his head...or else...he took the teacher's "it doesn't matter!" "relax!" "no pressure!" advice a little too seriously.