G-M district looking at scaling back another test
TURNERS FALLS — As it prepares to integrate a new statewide standardized test to replace the MCAS, the Gill-Montague Regional School District is also looking at scaling back use of another, unpopular standardized test subscribed to by the district for several years.
Superintendent Michael Sullivan said the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test is sold in part as a predictor of MCAS scores, and as a means for teachers to gauge the progress of individual students.
Sullivan said that on entering the district last year, one of the first things he heard from teachers was that the test wasn’t predictive of MCAS scores, and the thrice-yearly tests wasted time that could be better used. “They also feel strongly they already know which students are struggling and which are accelerated,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said a data analysis found the test gauged MCAS performance accurately for 65 percent of students. “That’s not great,” he said.
The test, for instance, showed the Gill Elementary fourth-grade as 80 percent proficient in math, while the MCAS found 55 percent. Sullivan said he issued a survey to teachers, to which 57 percent responded, and the vast majority were opposed to the test.
Sullivan proposed eliminating the test from all but first through third and ninth grades, those grades that do not take the MCAS and scaling back testing to twice a year.
These grades do not take the MCAS, and Sullivan said the MAP tests have some value as a standardized measure of performance. “It’s maybe not great value, but on the other hand it has some value,” he said.
Member Lesley Cogswell said she was happy to see he was doing away with the testing at the kindergarten level.
“My kindergartner told me today ‘I had to guess on a lot of it because mom, I don’t know how to read yet,’” Cogswell said.
Member Sandra Brown said growth and development are very uneven among young children, and said she didn’t want kids labeled that early. “I’d do away with it,” Brown said.
Sullivan said that had been discussed. “I don’t think even keeping it in (grades) one through three and nine will be around for long,” he said.
Sullivan said it’s hard to argue for the test after arguing against it, but it does measure English and math and provides a measure of teacher impact on student learning.
The School Committee was more or less universally in favor of Brown’s suggestion to scrap the test, with a modification. Erving representative Kelly Loynd said the test is useful to her as a parent of a ninth-grader, providing a measure of how students are doing at an age when they don’t much talk about it.
(Editor's note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)