Yesterday afternoon, in eighty degree heat, my fourth graders took the first of the six “NWEA MAP” assessments that they will sit for this year.
The MAP test (which stands for “Measure of Academic Progress”) is often considered to be the lesser of evils when it comes to standardized testing: scores show up immediately after a student finishes testing, and it purports to measure “growth” rather than how a child stacks up against grade-level standards.
Results often make zero sense (how does a student who worked their tail off in the classroom all year actually lose learning points, while another miraculously makes three years worth of “growth”?), but because the results have a sort of science-y feel, the test is used to place students in intervention groups, gifted and talented programs, and even to award merit pay bonuses to teachers.
Yesterday, in our steamy-hot classroom, I had to gently prod kids along – reminding them to turn their eyes back to the test when they drifted toward the window or the doorway, to put the rainbow erasers away, to pick their heads up off their desk.
The test, however, wanted me to intervene with one little girl sitting in the front of the room.
There was no question she was reading the passages in front of her, and no question that she was doing her best to do her best.
But, according to the test’s new warning feature, she was “disengaged.”
NWEA recently received an award from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional learning for this feature, which not only claims to know who is disengaged based on how quickly they are clicking through the test, but all sorts of other things about the child’s psyche.
If a student doesn’t take the test seriously enough, NWEA believes this is a sign that a child is struggling to self-regulate or self-manage in school, and could benefit from behavioral intervention.
Now, this may not seem so bad, until you realize that this “what’s wrong with kids who won’t take our test seriously and what can we do about them?” feature is actually part of a “broader research agenda” spurred by the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to “measure” social-emotional learning using standardized tests.
Which isn’t actually about helping the kids at all.
Instead, its a data-siphoning strategy designed to fuel not only the multi-billion dollar assessment industry, but the budding “Pay For Success” investment opportunities that Wall Street is hoping will create a cash cow in a few years time.
And if what happened in my class is any sign of what’s to come, we’re in really big trouble.
The girl that the test flagged as “disengaged” actually scored the highest in the class (and she’s probably one of the sweetest, calmest kids I’ve ever worked with) meaning that the click-speed feature didn’t actually have a damn clue about what was going on in my students’ psyches as they took the test.
Just as they do with standardized tests, however, you can bet they’re going to try charging forward with these blunt, inept social-emotional assessments, wreaking whatever havoc they please.
If only they had a warning system letting them know how disengaged we are becoming with these assessments…