It’s standardized test time for third-graders through eighth-graders in Missouri’s public schools.
For the first time in three years, Missouri’s standardized MAP tests, which must be completed by May 26, are in the same format and based on the same standards as the year before. The tests will change again next year to match state standards approved by legislators in 2016
Missouri officials say that creates a brief window of accurate year-over-year comparisons. Still, the state is unlikely to punish a district that does poorly with an accreditation downgrade.
A new test isn’t the kind of thing that you make a high-stakes decision on, said Chris Neale, who’s the assistant commissioner for the Office of Quality Schools at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“We find ourselves in a very unique situation because last year was a pilot year and the prior year was a pilot year and because the prior year was a pilot year, we are very short of useable, comparable test data across those three years,” Neale said. “So we’ll go very gently as we make those kinds of decisions.”
Under Missouri law, districts that are classified as unaccredited are required to pay for students to transfer to another district. The Normandy Schools Collaborative in north St. Louis County is the only district currently classified as unaccredited.
If Normandy follows the trajectory of the last three years, the tests are expected to show continued improvement. And if that happens, Neale said it’s likely the district will be reclassified as provisionally accredited, meaning it wouldn’t have to pay for students to attend schools elsewhere.
“I don’t want to speak for the state board of education, but if they score well again I think it’s very possible we would be prepared to give them an increased classification,” Neale said.
Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson said standardized tests are important for every school district because they help schools know what they’re doing right, and what they need to do better. But, he said, the MAP tests have double weight for Normandy this year because of the possibility for a classification upgrade.
Still, Pearson said his staff has done everything it can to make sure students are ready.
“I know what we have done. In the end, it comes down to whether the children will demonstrate what we believe they have learned,” Pearson said. “We can talk about what the adults do. And then after that we work on making sure the children feel confident and comfortable and competent about any questions that they see. But I’ll always be nervous. That’s the leader’s job.”
Pearson said Normandy’s teachers will be giving students lots of encouragement this week during MAP tests — and lots of recess breaks to burn off excess energy.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.