Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thumbs Down - MAP Assessment

Update: This post describes my initial feeling about the MAP test, immediately after my kids took it for the first time.  We've discussed the test in more detail, and my kids now understand better that they are SUPPOSE to get half the questions wrong.  It is okay to now know all of the answers.  The test no longer frustrates them.  With that, my feelings about the test have done a 180; the test provides helpful information.  Because of the test results received after this test, I did a complete overhaul of our curriculum choices, and the kids are much happier doing work at their level rather than way below their level like they were before.  

If your kids can grasp the idea that the test will give them questions that are both way too easy and way too hard and everything in between, that it is okay to get half of the questions wrong, then this is a great test to take.  Your results will tell them exactly which grade level (compared to nationally normed public school students) they are performing at for each subject.  If they need to feel more successful by knowing most of the material on the test, it may be best to stick with grade level tests such as the CAT-5.  The CAT-5 will only tell you how they are performing on the specific grade level the test was designed for, thus provides you will little useful information for placement.

The kids are finally done with their testing. We started at 10:00 this morning; it is now after 3:00pm. I'm tired and no one is happy. I definitely do NOT recommend MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment, especially for sensitive kids or kids who have a tendency towards perfectionism.

In theory, this MAP assessment is a great idea. The test is completely computerized and adjusts the questions based on the answers given by the student. If the student gets the questions correct, the test gradually gets harder. If the student get questions wrong, the computer hands out easier questions. The idea is to find the level that the student is at. Then the next year when the student takes the test again, what you get back is how much progress the student has made since the last test. Normal standarized tests tell you how well the student did compared to a students of the same grade level.

In practice, the test doesn't work well. When my 3rd grade daughter first started the test with the language portion, I was shocked at how difficult the questions were. And they didn't get any easier. It finally got to a point where I called my husband and read off the current question to him. His response? "Holy Cow!" Yes, it was a high school level question. Another question asked her to pick out which answer showed how to properly cite a work in a bibliography; she got that one right. One of her reading questions included answering a question based on a passage taking from a text called Writing for College. Several of the questions, I was even unsure of the correct answer. Concerned, I called the school to ask if they has accidently set her up with the wrong test. Turns out that they didn't; the language portion of the test covers 3rd through 12th grade. They expect the student to miss more than half of the questions...and that is where the test goes wrong.

The math portion was equally difficult even though I thought it was be easier since I was told it only covered 3rd through 5th grades. The questions included problems with improper and mixed fractions, division, complex algebraic equations, complex patterns, metric measurements that required conversion (ie. the question is in cm but the answers are in mm) and other types of problems I don't remember seeing until I took algebra in the 8th grade. Interestingly, the test covered a few concepts that we covered last year and almost none of the math concepts that we've been covering this year.

My children don't respond well when they are set up to fail. Being given so many questions that are so far over their head that they can't even guess at the answers, makes them feel, well, dumb. Once they feel dumb, they are deflated, devastated, depressed, upset, crying, frustrated, unhappy...all feelings that don't help a student perform well on a test. I noticed that as the test went on, her confidence dropped lower and lower until she was unable to answer even the easy questions that I know she knows. (On a side note, it was funny to see that she was getting many of the most difficult questions correct while bombing on the easiest questions.)

I've already talked to our teacher/contact. We both agree that this test is not a good fit for my kids and she knows that my kids are doing very well academically regardless of the test results. We'll look at the results out of curiosity but they don't matter. The fact that I tested my kids back in October using the CAT-5 is fine for this year. Thankfully, we are part of a virtual academy (CVA) that is so flexible (it was started by homeschoolers after all), that we do not have to take the MAP assessment ever again. I'll be returning to the traditional normed test on paper, thank you very much.

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Tricia said...

Hi there, my daughter is in Kindergarten and we are doing CVA as well. She needs to take an assessment test before they will approve her to go on any field-trips. Our advisory teacher told me I could pick a different test than the map test, but I don't know of any. What are you using now?
Thank you so much for your blog, I found it when I was trying to decide if I wanted to use CVA or not and I have since found many posts helpful!

Greg ODonnell said...

My daughter took these tests at a private school before we began homeschooling, and part of what made it more manageable is that they spread the test-taking out over a week. Although she was disturbed she couldn't answer all the questions accurately or didn't have time to finish them, she coped fairly well. She knew she was very good in math (and that day was easiest for her), and having "good" days helped balance the days she didn't do as well.

Krista Ballard said...

Hi! I'm curious to find out how you were able to take the MAP test at home? Can you give me a website to go through? Thanks so much!