COLUMBIA – Miles Rainey, a sophomore at Hickman High School, will join sophomores all over the state in taking End-of-Course, or EOC, tests instead of Missouri Assessment Program tests for the first time this spring.
Students at Hickman are used to taking big tests, Rainey said. Except this time, the new tests will count toward a course grade.
Rainey said motivation will be much more present with EOC tests.
“For a majority of high school students, who care about getting good grades, there is more hard work involved," Rainey said.
Tests will be course-specific
Besides counting for a grade, EOC tests are different because they are course-specific exams that are meant to measure student achievement and readiness for post-secondary learning, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s "EOC Frequently Asked Questions."
In April, students enrolled in Algebra I, English II and Biology will take EOCs in those subjects.
Jim Morris, director of public information for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the new tests are being incorporated to address student motivation and ensure that they are prepared either for higher education or for entering a competitive work force.
“The big picture is post-high school readiness, whatever that may be for each student,” Morris said.
Required by Federal law
EOC tests are a direct result of the No Child Left Behind Act. Morris said that federal law requires all public schools to test certain subjects and to meet set standards.
“We hold the schools accountable for making progress,” Morris said. “Schools that don’t meet prescribed goals will be tagged as failing to meet adequate yearly progress targets. These schools may ultimately be subject to sanction.”
Students doing well get rewarded with a good grade. Schools doing well are rewarded with pride. And ultimately, Morris said, states are compared with one another. He said state officials in Missouri, like those in all states, prefer to have their state on the top of that list.
The key focus of No Child Left Behind is on different sub-groups of students.
“How are we (Missouri) doing for all students, including poor students, minority students, students with disabilities, students just learning English?” Morris said. “And, are we motivating and teaching a diverse population?”
In favor of the change
Kathy Ritter, principal of Rock Bridge High School, likes the change from MAP testing to EOC testing.
“We like the idea of End-of-Course testing because it is targeted toward learning in that class,” Ritter said.
Rock Bridge's curriculum is based off the state-created course level expectations, or CLE. These new tests, according to Ritter, are supposed to be aligned with the CLE. The only difference she sees in adding EOC exams is that teachers may teach a little more quickly to make sure everything is covered.
“I have restructured my second semester slightly to make it all fit,” said Kerri Graham, Rock Bridge’s 10th-grade biology teacher. “We will be testing as late as possible to get as much content in as possible.”
The education department suggests that schools use the EOC exam scores for 10 to 25 percent of the students’ grades, but Ritter said they are starting smaller for the first year.
Rock Bridge is using the EOC tests for 5 percent of the second semester course grade but is also continuing to administer finals, which count for 7 to 10 percent of a semester course grade.
Rainey said Hickman is using the tests for 10 to 14 percent of the grades, at each teacher's discretion.
Brian Gaub, principal of Douglass High School, also plans to start small.
“We will be working on the lower end of that range until the process develops and we have a better feel of how much a test from an outside vendor should impact students' grades,” Gaub said.
With EOC exams implemented, DESE officials would like to see an increase in student achievement .
“We hope to see academic performance, as measured by these tests, increase at the high school level,” Morris said. “We hope this approach can provide more rigor and consistency in curriculum.”
Graham said that though she is not convinced that the EOC exams will give an accurate reflection of student work, she is sure her students will perform well.
"Honestly, do I want to give the students the test? No," Graham said. "Any high-stakes test is not giving the true picture of what students know and are able to do. But I'm not afraid of the test. My students will do just fine."
Only three tests will be administered this spring, but DESE is working to add Algebra II, Geometry, Integrated Math III, English I, American History and Government to the list of EOC tests for the 2009-10 school year.