Legislators scrap testing co. MAP scores not available

Monday, June 15, 2015

By PAT PRATT

Staff Writer

R-I officials are still waiting on end of the year assessments results, despite testing consortium Smarter Balanced's promise of a 10-day return.

The failure to provide scores for the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment in a timely manor is just another guffaw in a long string of issues over the new test, but likely the last as a funding ban by the Missouri legislature takes the consortium out of the equation.

State elected officials appropriated $5.7 billion for education last week that includes $7 million for new assessment testing and a caveat that prohibits the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) from paying Smarter Balanced $4.2 million for the 2016 tests.

The prohibition on paying Smarter Balanced comes in the wake of a Feb. 24 ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green that the state's partnership with the Common Core testing company is an "illegal interstate compact not authorized by the U.S. Congress."

Thus, next year, at least at R-I, school officials say they will go with an already established test from a different vendor - likely the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. That is, if a new test is not created in the next nine months.

"I just feel like the district spent a lot of time and energy catching up and now we are in a state of chance again," said R-I Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Patty Robertson.

Despite years of litigation, legislation and threats to funding, kicking Smarter Balanced to the curb will do little to eliminate Common Core itself - already locked into the Missouri Learning Standards, which serves as the state curriculum model - from the classroom.

"For right now we have to teach the standards that we have. And the standards that we use have some Common Core items. The districts have always had the flexibility and authority to add and remove standards.

"We are not locked into the state standards. They provide us a guide and they give us an assessment. We work the curriculum to match that. We can teach whatever we want, there is still a lot of local control," said Robertson.

The Smarter Balanced test received mixed remarks from state teachers. According to a Missouri State Teachers Association survey conducted in May, 52 percent of teachers said preparing kids for the test took up more time than other tests.

Missouri and other states also reported a number of computer "glitches" although Robertson said the testing was administered here without a hitch.

"There was some more work on the front end, as far as getting everything set up. But beyond that, our testing was pretty smooth. We didn't have any glitches or problems. There were a couple of isolated incidents that we were able to work through very quickly," Robertson said.

Assessment testing is used to indicate performance and affects accreditation. However, the most recent test will be exempt due to the newness of the content.

"They (DESE) told us pretty early on that they would not lower our designation. Some people said it doesn't count. Well it does kind of count as a rolling average, but it doesn't as far as saying we are not accredited," Robertson said.

According to corestandards.org, The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards are linked to No Child Left Behind, which required all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

"We were in No Child left Behind and the sanctions were pretty steep at that point at the end when we were getting close to that 100 percent proficiency target. Schools at the end not able to meet that, were going into all kinds of corrective action.

"So as a measure, the Federal Government offered a waiver process for states to apply and get out of the sanctions. The waiver process included that you had to accept the Common Core standards," Robertson said.

The Daily American Republic will provide an update on the end of year MAP testing when the scores are returned by Smarter Balanced.

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