Missouri MAP test standards reviewed

A plan in the legislature would lower testing standards to match the federal benchmark.
Friday, January 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:25 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Some Missouri legislators proposed a plan Thursday to stop penalizing Missouri schools for being too tough in testing students.

A House and Senate bill to rework various components of Missouri’s MAP testing regimen will help allow schools to meet a federal standard that is actually lower than the goal than Missouri educators set for themselves.

If Missouri schools fail to meet the goals, established under the No Child Left Behind Act, they can face heavy financial penalties.

While federal law sets achievement goals, states can set their own standards for the tests. Missouri uses the old MAP standards, which were established before the federal law and have higher standards than the federal law requires.

“The state’s problem is the putative provisions (of the act),” said Otto Fajen, who represented the Missouri branch of the National Education Association at a news conference announcing the bill. “The federal concept of ‘proficient’ is at ‘grade level,’ but we have a system in place that’s higher.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said that the proposal was designed to reduce confusion for teachers and state officials who want to see how Missouri students are faring nationwide. The bill was not designed, he said, to impact testing standards.

“The problem with the MAP test is that it is not calibrated to the national standards,” Nodler said. “So the way we define ‘proficient’ may vary from those standards.”

The MAP testing uses benchmarks such as “below grade level,” “at grade level” and “above grade level” to characterize student performance. The National Assessment of Educational Progress test, a crucial component of the No Child Left Behind Act, does not utilize those categories.

“Numerous changes to our standards will be made upwards and downwards,” said Jim Morris, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman. DESE helped research and author the bill. “But based on Missouri students performance, the standards seem very similar.”

Supporters of the bill said that this measure, while potentially helping the state deal with the federal education act, did not address any of the fundamental problems of the act itself.

“We also have a continued obligation to work with our Congressional representatives to address the situation from a federal level,” Fajen said. “There are a lot of issues with the No Child Left Behind Act.”

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