GUSD MAP-testing requirement stymies students

Examining the benefits and hindrances of the new mandatory diagnostic test

Arpa Hakopian, Staff Writer

“Are you kidding me?” Eli Asadoorian, a senior from Clark Magnet High School, exclaims. He was supposed to continue his Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test where he left off during his previous class, which was around question 20, but now he stared at a screen that displayed “number one.”

The MAP test is the latest addition to the GUSD beginning-of-the-year requirements. This 50-question test from the not-for-profit organization Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is a research-based test that “maps” out the strengths and weaknesses of students in a teacher’s class. The test scores are meant to help teachers cater towards students more personally. The platform offers suggestions and hints as to what each student is proficient in and what they might need some extra help on.

There are different versions of the test created for grades K-12. The website explains the benefits of MAP testing, but despite the benefits, students found several issues with the test’s administration. “I understand the need for a yearly diagnostic test, but the fact that this had to be done at home made it way too problematic,” Asadoorian said. “My progress on the test from the previous class never saved and I had to restart the entire test from the beginning.”

Most students have been struggling with their wifi or some website after the transition to remote learning. Having a user-friendly interface is the top priority of academic websites and resources during these times. This is something that NWEA seems to have prepared for, as their mission statement states, “Too many have been negatively impacted from school closures—and in several ways. No one knows what to expect this year. But we believe we can help in part by providing educators with trusted and accurate insights into where kids are at in their learning throughout the year.” 

The test itself is quite extensive. Every question has a different corresponding passage to read with little to no overlap. The benefits of using two to three class periods for this exam comes down to the information test scores give to administrators and teachers. 

For administrators, schoolwide scores can help with overall screening and growth measurement according to the NWEA. With this information schools can work proactively in creating intervention programs for furthering skills mastery. These benefits are the same for teachers but just scaled down. Teachers can create more beneficial lessons and can better target a student’s needs. So these scores can help with differentiation of lessons for students, which the NWEA explains as a tool to lessen manual work by automatically creating instructional pathways. 

The districtwide order for this test emphasizes the administration’s attempts at keeping students on track. However, some students felt that the assessment did more harm than good. “Honestly, I think the test was a waste of time,” said Sion Fallah, a senior from Clark. “We spent an entire period just making sure everyone could open up the test. After that you could tell students were getting drained by the amount of questions and began to guess their way through the test just for the sake of being done.”

The MAP test informs the host, in this case the teacher or administrator, if a student begins to rapidly guess questions. This is for the sake of having accurate test results. The MAP test score does not affect a student’s overall grade in the class, so to ensure the effectiveness of the program there needs to be a mutual team effort in the class.

Not only is it a long test, but it also requires students to read a different passage for each question. Students reported beginning to burnout and simply give up on putting any effort into getting a high score. “That’s why the attention span of students should be considered when people make any sort of diagnostic test that relies on getting accurate scores,” Fallah said.