The State Board of Education has approved a proposal to introduce end-of-course exams by 2009 to replace Missouri Assessment Program tests for high school students.
After taking biology, algebra and English, students will take an end-of-course exam to determine whether they have mastered the curriculum.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman Jim Morris said the proposed exams will have a narrower scope than the MAP tests.
“We will be defining expectations in terms of classes taken,” Morris said. “The results of this test will more effectively define expectations to parents, students and employers.”
Morris said the new tests’ results will factor into a student’s course grade, unlike the MAP.
A proposal was made to re-evaluate high school performance standards because MAP scores statewide have been flat, Morris said.
“This is frustrating to teachers and administrators,” Morris said. “Students aren’t motivated.”
Currently, high school students take the MAP tests in math during 10th grade and in communication arts during 11th grade.
Missouri School Boards’ Association spokesman Brent Ghan said that under the current system, districts are held accountable for the performance of their students, but students aren’t held accountable for their scores.
“Presumably, if it’s part of a student’s grade, there will be a motivation to do well,” Ghan said.
Each school district chooses its own curriculum. A concern about the plan is how the state will choose to test different courses, said Chip Sharp, coordinator for sixth through 12th grade math instruction in Columbia schools.
“Courses under the label of algebra are not necessarily a true measure of algebra,” Sharp said.
The Columbia Public School District offers six different math courses, both traditional and integrated.
“Essentially, students are preparing for the same level of math after high school,” Sharp said. “So they should be able to take the same test.”
Sharp said the state has not decided whether there will be a unique test for all math classes.
“If there are two tests, the state is implying that the math experiences are so different that they require a different test,” Sharp said.
There is also debate about how to score the examinations. Standardized tests limit the amount of time teachers and administrators have to evaluate performance because the tests are given at the end of the year and must be sent back to the publisher to be scored.
Sharp said this limits teachers to multiple choice questions, though subjects such as math or English are often writing-based.
A possible solution would allow teachers to create their own written portions of the test to score locally, Morris said.
Morris said the Board of Education has plans to address teachers’ concerns when the tests are written and no time line has yet been set to define the details of the plan.
“We need to get started putting the building blocks into place.”