Results of a pilot study on the state-recommended system in use to measure student growth in math and reading at South Huntington Public Schools drew skepticism of the system by board members, teachers and staff Wednesday night.
“We used to be able to send supervisors into classrooms and assess how a teacher was doing, and it was going just fine,” said board president Jim Kaden, following a presentation by Dr Jared Bloom, supervisor of technology and assessment. "We were doing fine without their help."
"Before this South Huntington teachers were working hard, doing great things, we knew how to evaluate people," agreed Dr Dave Bennardo, superintendent of schools. "Direct teacher assessment is still 60% of how we evaluate, but now we’re testing kids with an expensive method."
School systems are required to choose a method of student assessment from a state-approved list, or get their own method approved for use by the state. South Huntington has chosen to use “MAP” (Measures of Academic Progress), a system developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).
MAP's aim? To measure student growth providing 'detailed, actionable data about where each child is on their unique learning path.'
But NWEA's MAP program is costly -- upwards of 70 thousand dollars to implement, according to Bennardo. "NWEA is a for-profit company, and they charge you for it," he noted.
In order to look at what they're getting for their money, the South Huntington School Board conducted a pilot program, examining results for a group of students that got the "full" MAP treatment, against another group that did not.
Variables included the number of progress tests during the year and the amount of school staff training in how to use the data that is produced from the testing.
As presented by Bloom, student growth in math skills, oral reading fluency and reading was only marginally better for those who got the full NWEA/MAP treatment.
Called on to provide comments on the NWEA/MAP system, teachers' association president Dennis Callahan noted an additional concern -- the design of the evaluation can push students to forward to a point at which they cannot succeed -- which can cause frustration.
"The test is driving them to the point of frustration sometimes," agreed Bennardo.
But South Huntington has to use some state approved method. "We could pick another assessment off the state approved list," he said. "We don't have to use NWEA -- but you have to pick something."
Still, the pilot study offered the board a way to tell whether NWEA's the best way to go, Bennardo concluded. “The board wanted to know more about what it is and how it’s going,” he said.
“They had some reasonable questions, including is it worth what we spend for it. We’ll be monitoring it throughout the year.”