MAP testing under fire

By Ruthann Carr


Several teachers and administrative staff urged the School Board Wednesday (Sept. 11) to keep the Measures of Academic Progress testing.

At the August School Board meeting Andrew Pullen (Columbia) made a motion to eliminate MAP testing, but before it came up for a vote, Pullen decided to pull the motion. 

However, it began a discussion that continued Wednesday. 

Many FCPS staff spoke in favor of using MAP to assess what a student is learning.

Board Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) opened the meeting with a statement, which read, in part: “

I have a motion…providing an alternative to the elimination of MAP testing,” Johnson said. “…I’ve brought it up before, because eliminating MAP specifically was never my focus, though reducing student testing has always been my aim. When the means to that reduction became eliminating MAP, I became a proponent. I’d like to add to the agenda…a motion to reduce division or school required student testing by at least 25 percent in grades K-7, by the end of this school year, to be measured by anonymous classroom teacher survey in May.”

Johnson said her concern about testing lies in the “anxiety it produces in too many of our youngest students…and the loss of instructional time experienced by our lowest achievers.”

Because MAP measures progress, many students who struggle academically are assessed more often.

Pullen seconded the motion. 

The Board voted against adding the motion for vote at the current (Sept. 11) meeting (Pullen and Johnson, yes, Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) and Brenda Pace (Palmyra), no). 

However, Johnson said it would be on October’s meeting agenda. 

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) was not at the meeting.

Jamie Mathieson is the Fluvanna Director of Testing, Accountability and Alternative Education.

During the public comment period, Mathieson said every year staff looks into testing – how and why tests are administered – and it results in decreasing the number of tests and “streamlining” their delivery. 

His team provides opportunities for families to learn about tests, and trains teachers how to use them and what they measure, he said. 

“(The MAP) is the only assessment that is student adaptive, provides national and district norms, is connected to state standards, provides multiple measures over time, and is strongly predictive of future academic success,” he said. “This is not the tool to get rid of to decrease testing, but one to educate yourself about as a parent, teacher or community member.”

Mathieson cited FCPS being one of only 20 Virginia school districts to be fully accredited and having one of the highest graduation rates as a reason not to mess with success. 

Fluvanna Middle School teacher Beverly Kerr said the testing committee recommending keeping MAP, “…and yet here we are discussing this again and it’s brought up by people not using it.”

Kerr said she didn’t like when MAP scores were used to evaluate teachers when it came to raises, but that no longer happens. 

Cassidi Hall also teaches at the Middle School. Hall served on the testing committee and said she put in at least 10 hours. During her service, she “got a better understanding of the assessments we give. MAP meets 39 of the 57 standards of qualities.”

Carysbrook Elementary teacher Michelle Ryman said she taught in other school districts that did not use MAP and had limited data. 

“I love MAP. It adapts and limits (student) frustration…the analytical data shows me not only what they missed but how to meet their needs,” Ryman said. “Please don’t take MAP away. It helps me be a better teacher.”

Central Elementary Principal Amy Barnabei said her staff followed the testing committee’s recommendations, looking not only at what tests are redundant but how each test affects students. 

“Sometimes how a test is presented can be the problem,” she said. 

First grade teacher Kristy Muddiman applauded the work of the testing committee.

“After their work was complete, the number of assessments given by the district has already, in fact, been greatly reduced, as was the mandate given by the board,” she said.

Muddiman enumerated all the ways MAP helps her know her children and students and help them learn.

“I implore you, as a teacher and a parent, to stop relying on out-of-date information regarding MAP, longstanding vitriol over its past role in ‘pay for performance’ and mandatory inclusion in evaluations, and trust the opinions and hard work of the professionals that have already completed the work on evaluations.  Let us provide the children of this district with the best possible education we can through targeted instruction, using valuable, individualized data, and move on from a topic that has already been settled.”

High School Principal Margo Bruce said she refers to the data she gets from MAP as “liquid gold.”

She said the information it provides gives her a blueprint for incoming 8th graders and helps her place them in the best possible classes. 

James Kelley, who is running unopposed for the Palmyra School Board seat being vacated by Pace, said the reality is “we live in a world of analytics” and the data MAP provides teachers on their students is invaluable. 

“I hope we trust our teachers to do what is right for their students…there’s no reason not to listen to them,” Kelley said. 

Jennifer Valentine is the director of Fluvanna’s special education and said MAP helps teachers see a student’s strengths and weaknesses. 

“I’m not understanding why we’re having this discussion when we’ve got so many other things to work on,” she said.

After public comments, Pullen made a motion that “we acknowledge the work of the testing committee, implement their recommendations, add two board members to the (testing) committee and make MAP only in kindergarten an if/then option.”

Stewart seconded the motion.

In discussing the motion, Pullen said he is “100 percent against the SOLs (Standards of Learning tests), but MAP isn’t standardized testing. It grows (with the student)…if our target is standardized testing, we should go after the SOLs.”

Stewart thanked the staff for their “passion and eloquence…the Board should have done better homework about MAP…”

Stewart said it was hard to support every piece of the motion. She said Board members should only go to testing committee meetings at their invitation. 

She asked Barnabei to explain how MAP is used in kindergarten. Barnabei said if a preliminary assessment doesn’t give the needed information, then MAP is used.

The Board passed the motion unanimously.

In other news, Superintendent Chuck Winkler said work on the Carysbrook roof is ahead of schedule. If the weather remains clear, it should be done by the middle of October.

During the meeting a thunderstorm raged. The lights flickered on and off several times. 

Winkler said the administration building did not have a back-up generator. 

“When the power goes out we have no phone, no Internet.”

He said a generator would cost around $75,000 and they might be able to take the money out of the Capital Reserve Maintenance Fund. 

Executive Director of Finance and Instruction Brenda Gilliam projected the 2019 budget will finish with about $931, 531 left over.

High School Principal Bruce and Don Stribling, executive director of human resources, operations and student services reported to the Board about the high school cell phone policy. 

Students can use their phones in the hallway and during lunch. They cannot use them in the classroom unless the teacher asks them to. 

 “The policy is only as good as the enforcement,” Bruce said. “You have to hold the teachers accountable, too. If you don’t enforce the rules, the kids will do what they want.” 

Bruce said she implemented a minor infraction policy that seems to have reduced the number of discipline referrals.

Stribling said parents who live outside the district who apply for their children to attend FCPS, have to pay tuition of about $5,400 per school year. Staff who live outside the district can have their children attend without paying the tuition, he said. 

However, there is no guarantee their children can attend. A committee determines if accepting the student will adversely affect class size, etc.  

Pullen suggested that benefit be extended to county employees. After a discussion, the Board approved 3-1 the outside student tuition as presented, without extending the benefit. Pullen dissented.


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