Mapping Out the Purpose of MAP Testing

Lucy Samuels, Staff Writer

Math. Reading comprehension. Language Arts. A new semester yields more MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing for Chamblee, even during an online schedule. Although tracking student growth through the triannual MAP is a county requirement, underclassmen and teachers alike are dragging their feet through this year’s testing—as it, according to some, slips further and further into obsoleteness. 

Testing Fatigue

English department head Zachary Welser is one of the many teachers proctoring the MAP, administering the longest test out of the three: reading comprehension. During the beginning of the semester, the MAP took up a sizable portion of his planning time.

“That’s actually what makes them annoying—the time it takes up,” said Welser. “The issue is that the reading test is like 40-something questions. […] It can take an hour and a half, and it is just so long. From what I understand, it’s basically the same test over and over.”

Along with taking up teachers’ limited planning time (and in the case of second semester, class time), the experience itself was especially taxing this year.

“This year has been worse for a number of reasons. The first one—the actual fall administration—that one was a nightmare. Monday would be reading, Tuesday language, [and] Thursday was math,” said Welser. “ I [proctored] for four weeks, one week per group. And then I had the makeups for the week following that. So it was just five weeks of testing, starting promptly at 2 p.m. and going till 3:30. […] I think most homeroom teachers had a similar experience.” 

During the second semester, students had the opportunity to take their MAP tests at the school, but for those who decided to stay home, online testing without the in-person direction of teachers caused additional inconveniences.

“This year, it was a lot harder and more complicated because I feel like nobody knew what they were doing,” said Amari Hassan (‘23). “You’re supposed to go ask a teacher [if you can’t log in]. Then I asked my homeroom teacher, and he’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ And I’m like, ‘Well… I guess we don’t know.’”

Starting last semester, homeroom teachers rather than subject teachers were given the opportunity to administer the MAP. While this did not fully salvage class time during second semester, as in-person proctoring led to asynchronous learning, Welser appreciated the added efficiency. 

“For three years, ninth and 10th grade English teachers were giving up their class time to give this test, even though it was a school-wide thing,” said Welser. “We kind of got a little resentful. And we basically convinced the administration like, ‘Hey, can we do it through the homeroom?’”

Tracking Progress

Some students attempt to bypass the extensive reading, grammar, and math sections of the MAP by checking arbitrary answers for each question, especially since it does not affect their grades.

“I’ve heard of people just putting the same answer for every question because they didn’t want to take it. If people don’t really care about it, then it won’t be that helpful,” said Isabelle Coursey (‘24). “It kind of feels pointless for them to track our growth if they already see how we do in all of our quizzes and tests.”

Hassan felt that the MAP’s value as an indicator of growth was also undermined by academic dishonesty. 

“The online version wasn’t protected. It was like, ‘You can definitely cheat on that,’ and I think if MAP is really important, […] it’s important that people don’t cheat,” said Hassan.

Other than showing academic prowess, MAP scores can also indicate a student’s eligibility for gifted program qualification. For already gifted students like Hassan and Coursey, this semester’s testing was purely for academic placement.

“This year, I decided not to go to the school [to take the tests] because it’s really only for students who want to be gifted, and I was already gifted,” said Coursey. “I didn’t really see the point of doing the MAP test and potentially getting exposed to the virus if I didn’t actually have to go do it. So would it really make sense for me to go in?” 

During this semester, students also had the option to opt-out of taking the MAP entirely, which is something Hassan chose to do as a result of her gifted status.

“I mean, especially because this year, you could opt-out, so that’s why I didn’t take the math [section],” said Hassan. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to school for that.’”

But the test is used for more than just spotting future gifted students. According to Keisha Owens, math teacher and head of the gifted program at Chamblee, the MAP is used by teachers and administration to further understand students’ capabilities. 

“As far as [the] gifted [program] is concerned, language arts teachers, as well as any other teacher, can access the information to set up a plan of action for those students that may need some extra assistance,” said Owens.

Welser is a teacher that routinely takes advantage of this opportunity.

“We can run a report for [the scores]. I look at the information most years with the fall test after imploring students to try their hardest on it so that I can get a sense of where they are,” said Welser. 

MAP Mishaps

Since there are seemingly no tangible consequences for failing the MAP, it can be hard to take it seriously. But that does not mean that low MAP scores are completely negligible. 

“Some of the things that we use MAP [for] when students don’t do really well is that they may have to receive some additional instruction outside of class time,” said Owens. “So for those students who may rush through [the test] and not take it seriously, if we don’t really know, or if we don’t have additional data to let us know, [they] could end up being in a tutorial session or some other type of program that they don’t actually need.”

Hassan has been in this exact situation before.

“There are so many times where they thought I was on a third-grade reading level because I really did not try. And so I had to go to a special class for a quick second, but during the class, the teacher noticed and was like, ‘Okay, you clearly just messed up. It’s whatever,’” said Hassan.

 The relative lack of transparency concerning the MAP’s purpose and potential consequences have impaired the understanding of student growth, as is evident from Hassan’s experience. And as long as it remains, its place in the school system, according to Owens, deserves more emphasis. 

“I think one thing is for teachers to actually discuss with their students the importance of MAP and what it measures how it’s used to guide their instruction, and to decide which students need additional help and which students need some acceleration, and also maybe even providing incentives for students,” said Owens. “When students take the MAP, if there has been a bit of growth, maybe we can have a MAP growth celebration for those students.”