New testing tool helps middle school students pick colleges

Some Georgia parents who like to plan far into the future have a new tool to guide their young teenagers to college.

The makers of the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test, have unveiled a new online predictive tool that tells parents which colleges would suit their middle school student based on current test scores.

The College Explorer tool tells middle school and early high school-age students “which colleges and universities they’re on track to enter long before they embark on the college application process,” according to the Northwest Evaluation Association, the global not-for-profit that makes the MAP.

Two dozen of the 180 Georgia school systems offer the MAP, most of them small. It’s also given in 130 of the state’s charter schools.

The MAP and its other uses have come up in hearings during this legislative session. Because the results are reported in a national context, test takers know how they stack up against the competition in other states. That isn’t the case with Georgia’s homemade, and mandatory, Milestones tests. Rep. Dave Belton, R-Buckhead (the city east of Atlanta and not the neighborhood of Atlanta) has been praising MAP in hearings about the state’s testing regime.

Feb. 16, 2016, Atlanta -- Parents and teachers with the group TRAGIC rally across the street from the Gold Dome. TY TAGAMI/AJC

Feb. 16, 2016, Atlanta — Parents and teachers with the group TRAGIC rally against school tests across the street from the Gold Dome. TY TAGAMI/AJC

The Delta pilot and former Morgan County school board member said the MAP is used at his schools. “It’s a national test, it’s a formative test and it’s very, very effective,” he said. (Formative means teachers can use it as a diagnostic tool.) “Is it true that the MAP is almost a better test than the Milestones?”

He was questioning Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, a former Cobb County school board member who authored legislation this year that would overhaul the state’s testing and teacher evaluation system, Senate Bill 364.

“I’m not a testing expert,” Tippins responded, “but from the feedback I get, MAP is a very effective test because it’s a formative assessment but it also has a conversion component of it that will give you a summative assessment that is nationally-normed.”

That is a former school board member’s way of saying the MAP could be used to both help teachers figure out where their students need help and to report what those students learned during the course. That’s the “summative” use of the Milestones. Summative scores hold teachers accountable for what their students learned, or failed to learn, and teachers complain that they are no help on the diagnostic end.

Currently, districts such as Decatur City Schools give their students both the MAP and the Milestones, devoting yet more time to testing rather than teaching. The idea that Tippins and Belton were dancing around hasn’t made its way into legislation yet, but with a parent test backlash gaining steam they aren’t the only people talking about fewer exams than can provide more information while consuming less precious classroom time.

Reader Comments 0

7 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Let's get them sorted into winners and also-rans in middle school!

Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Zimmerman

We are teaching our children that their future depends on tests. That can be great as a teaching lesson that you should work hard to achieve goals or work harder. I am concerned about constantly teaching people that the evaluation is what determines success. I doubt that most CEO's and successful entrepreneurs would be in their positions if they had bought into this type of structured life planning. How would this test reflect many Ivy League school's new initiatives on resume building and community building? Tests are great, we love knowing where we stand. However, no one at 12 years of age should have to deal with their college future.

redweather
redweather

@Ryan Zimmerman Assessment has been a big buzzword for some time now, and it is always linked in one way or another to budgets and ROI. When people think about money first, and I would argue that is happening more and more in the sphere of education, it tends to skew their perception.


I share your concern about this level of "life planning" when it comes to children, in middle school especially. The message we send them is that life is something that can be effectively scheduled or planned out in advance.  What most adults know, however, is that life can be and often is schedule-resistant. Some of the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.


I fear that we are doing young people a disservice when we lead them to believe that they exert more control over their future than they really do. If there is a rule of life we ought to inculcate, it's that they must be prepared for circumstances to change and that the difference between success and failure will often be measured by how well they adapt. 

Legong
Legong

Every third or fourth article on this blog savages academic testing as a pointless waste of time which unjustly burdens teachers and enriches companies producing the tests.

Accountability and profit are understood to be inherently evil in certain circles. Maybe even racist.

But not in all instances?

taylor48
taylor48

@Legong Did you even READ the article?  The MAP test is an academic test.  It appears to serve two purposes, however.  It gives the teacher information they can use to help students who aren't succeeding while also giving schools and parents an idea of where their students rate compared to other students.  (I've never given the MAP test, nor have I seen one, so I'm going on what was written in the article.  If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will be quick to correct me.)  I have yet to see a single teacher on here, myself included, say that there is no need for testing.  There is a need, however, for testing that actually HELPS our teaching.  Right now, the Milestones (and its predecessor, the CRCT) doesn't do that.  Now, when it comes to the predictive tool developed by the makers of the MAP test, that doesn't appear to be an academic test, but merely an informational tool for parents and students to use to determine what college might best suit them.    

redweather
redweather

Why do they refer to this as a test? It doesn't seem like there are any right or wrong answers.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@redweather The test informs the program that suggests appropriate colleges for level of performance shown, I believe.