Part 2: High stakes testing and opting out: The Types of Tests

High Stakes Testing and Opting Out: The Types of Tests 

– Dora Taylor

There are different types of tests that students typically take in a school year. One test the teacher creates and bases it on the information that has been provided in the classroom within a particular span of time. It provides information to the teacher, the parent and the student describing how much of a grasp the student has on the material.

Another test is a standardized test. Typically students take this test once each year to gauge their understanding and abilities in math, reading and writing. This provides the state and each school district a broader view of where students are in these subjects. For example in the state of Washington it’s the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and in Florida it is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test® (FCAT).

There is also a test referred to as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (pronounced “nape”). This is a longitudinal test given every four years that measures student achievement and provides information on 4th, 8th and 12th graders around the country in public and private schools.

The information from the NAEP test results over the last twelve years has shown that our students have improved significantly in the subjects of math and English, with the greatest improvements made by African-American students. Within the category of African-American students, the greater improvement has been with the most economically disadvantaged.

Per Mark Rothstein, a Research Associate at the Economic Policy Institute in his paper titled Fact Challenged Policy:

The only longitudinal measure of student achievement that is available to Bill Gates or anyone else is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP provides trends for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and poverty, since about 1980 in basic skills in math and reading (called the “Long Term Trend NAEP”) and since about 1990 for 4th and 8th graders in slightly more sophisticated math and reading skills (called the “Main NAEP”).

On these exams, American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally. In general, the improvements have been greatest for African-American students, and among these, for the most disadvantaged. The improvements have been greatest for both black and white 4th and 8th graders in math. Improvements have been less great but still substantial for black 4th and 8th graders in reading and for black 12th graders in both math and reading. Improvements have been modest for whites in 12th grade math and at all three grade levels in reading.

This is contrary to the claims that many individuals who actively support “education reform” are making about the achievement gap and the need for high stakes testing.

There is a third standardized test that most students are becoming familiar with and is used to report a student’s progress from year to year. In some states this is the Measures of Academic Progress test (MAP).

The MAP test does not always correspond to what is taught in the classroom so it does not adequately reflect the material the teacher has presented. Unfortunately, the results of this test are now used to evaluate teachers in Seattle.

To provide information on how students are progressing within the Race to the Top program, students take a standardized test such as the MAP test which is given two times each year with an optional third time. The third test is a field test that testing companies use to evaluate additional data for their own purposes. This testing does not include the required state test or the quizzes and tests that teachers create which monitors the student’s understanding of the material actually presented in the classroom. Because of the demands placed on a school by Race to the Top, teachers many times will focus on the material that is covered on the standardized test. Such teaching narrows the scope of information teachers offer their students.

In Texas, Denise Williams, the testing director of the Wichita Falls Independent School District, has stated that high school students are spending up to 45 days of their 180-day school year taking standardized tests. Students in grades three through eight spend 19 to 27 days a year taking state-mandated tests.

Additional articles and posts:

15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP® Test—ASAP

Opting out of the MAP test and a MAP opt out letter template just in time for Spring testing

Race and The (mis)Measures of Academic Progress

SEA Calls for Elimination of the MAP Test in Seattle Schools

Revolt against high-stakes standardized testing spreads

Ritz expels Bennett from top school post. An excerpt:

Ritz believes voters in Indiana were sending a message regarding Bennett’s policies and controversial tenor.

“Hoosiers don’t want their tax dollars going toward the privatization of our schools, and they don’t want our teaching and learning environments to be about teaching to the test,” Ritz told hundreds of Democrats who gathered at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.

Next up, Part 3: The Variables


  1. May I correct your statement: “Another test is a standardized test. Typically students take this test once each year to gauge their understanding and abilities in math, reading and writing.” I would rather say that this test does not provide a true gauge of understanding and abilities but simply compares one child’s number of correct answers to another child’s number of correct answers. Since every teacher teaches differently and there is no scripted curriculum, there can be no basis for accurately measuring understanding or ability via a standardized test that has not been closely aligned with a curriculum. Therefore cut scores that represent a qualitative measure are purely artificial and inherently unfair and inequitable.

    The NAEP test “measures student achievement” in the same way and is righteously not used for high stakes purposes. I believe that when policymakers, parents and the public truly understand the difference between using standardized tests in a “figurative” sense (metaphor = making a comparison between two or more UNLIKE things wherein one becomes the other) and using standardized tests for high stakes that the high stakes use will be deemed valueless and illegal.

    1. I agree. I was referring to the state test that is administered once a year and yes, many times it does not align with the curriculum given in class nor does it gauge what a student comprehends and understand in terms of the larger picture.


  2. Dora, You’ve done a wonderful job exposing the big tests. I’d like to add that when district test are factored in our children are tested all the time. How about NWEA, Scantron, Terra Nova, DIBELS, STAR, ACT/SAT, ITBS; it’s just ridiculous! Some of the district tests are given several times a year. Kids are tested more frequently and younger. Children shouldn’t be assessed or schooled until it is developmentally appropriate and with materials which are developmentally appropriate. They should only receive instruction from experienced highly trained teachers and not the likes of Teach For America ‘corps members’, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp or her hubby with KIPP charter schools, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family (Walmart) and especially our infamous Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who has NEVER taught a day of class to anyone. These people seek to ‘profit from’ not ‘quality educate’ our children. To them our children are nothing but scores, data, and profit. Respect our teachers and children and refuse the test.

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