The teacher squints at her computer, her face tight with concentration. She calls over a few of her colleagues, hoping they might have an insight. They lean over her terminal and squint as well, trying to make out the loopy, round handwriting.
“It’s enough to make a person go blind in the morning,” the first teacher jokes.
This problem comes up often when teachers score the science portion of the Missouri Assessment Program. Schools from across the state sent that part of the MAP to Hickman High School for grading, which ends today.
The students constructed their own answers, in their own handwriting, for these 13 teachers to grade in the past week. Teachers from all over Missouri were selected for this project and went through several days of training to participate.
Jessica Ash-Schulte, assistant director of assessment at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the scorer training takes about half of the seven days the project lasts. Each potential scorer goes through horizontal and vertical training, Schulte said. The horizontal training is when they score a question over and over, while the vertical training takes them through questions in order.
Ash-Schulte said the project also has team leaders, who receive additional training and do “read behinds” to make sure the scorers are following the scoring guide. The guide and questions on the MAP are developed by Missouri teachers, she said.
Connie Clements, who oversees the team leaders and is a biology teacher in the Slater School District, said she looks forward to this part of her summer. She has scored MAPs for a number of years and said her involvement has changed the way she teaches.
“It helps me prepare my kids,” she said.
Clements said the scorers get through about 500 to 800 tests a day. The graders work online and see reproduced images of the test booklet, which can sometimes add to the handwriting problem.
Pam Didur, a science teacher at Oakland Junior High School, said she is enjoying her first year as a MAP scorer. She said the training was about what she expected, but she has realized that “a lot more goes into it than the average teacher understands.”
Didur said she applied to become a scorer because it would help her prepare her students better. She said that because she sees so many student responses when she is scoring, she can “get a feeling” for the “way the kids understand the prompt” — meaning the test question.
Scoring gives her strategies for her teaching, she said. “I can teach kids how to decipher the prompts correctly.”
Dawn Maddox, director of data analysis and reporting for the state Education Department, said MAP results should be available by Aug. 19.