State officials are revising the 2006 Missouri Assessment Program testing format and including more grade levels in order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Next year, NCLB, which sets progress goals for states to meet each year, will require that grades three through eight be tested in both communication arts and math. Currently, third-, seventh- and 11th-graders in Missouri are tested in communication arts. Fourth-, eighth- and 10th- graders are tested in math. Missouri’s tests for grades 10 and 11 already meet standards.
The revised tests will be slightly shorter and contain less writing, according to Jim Morris, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
When the federal act was initially passed, Missouri chose to keep its testing standards consistent with those already in place.
“After the adoption of the Show-Me Standards in 1996, (they) became the standards for the MAP tests. But (those) are very broad,” Morris said.
The goal of the new tests is to maintain Show-Me Standards and still reach the federal goals set by the act. However rigorous, Morris said the state’s standards needed to be more specific to meet the stipulations of NCLB.
To transition from the grade spans — three, seven and 11 for communication arts and grades four, eight, and 10 for math — to yearly assessments per grade level, officials from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary created Grade Level Expectations.
The expectations outlined standards for what students should learn each year. Previously, these existed conceptually but were made more content specific for each grade level.
Efforts from teachers, officials and standardized testing experts from CTB/McGraw-Hill wrote new tests for the additional grade levels andreworked current tests to create a process that will work as a yearly progress measure.
The format of the tests is also changing. Currently, MAP tests consist of multiple choice, constructed response and performance events for all grades .
Constructed response items require students to fill in the blank or give a short response and performance events are generally a type of essay. In third grade, for example, the performance event for communication arts is currently storytelling.
Third, seventh and 11th-graders will continue to be tested in all three areas, and now fourth through sixth and eighth grades will not have performance event items.
In math testing, third , fifth, sixth and seventh-graders will not test in performance events. The remaining grade levels will be tested using all three questionformats.
Susan Fales, an administrator at Ridgeway Elementary School, said year-to-year progress measures will be an advantage of the new testing, but educators will have an even greater challenge to maintain the right kind of learning environment.
“We need to be balancing our assessing time and our teaching time,” she said.
May 2-6, some 16,000 Missouri students per grade, per testing subject will take tests that will simulate the revised assessments.
In 2008, the tests will undergo changes again, as science will be integrated into yearly testing, along with communication arts and math.