Schools could offer MAP tests despite state cutbacks

Friday, May 24, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Although lawmakers cut state funding, school districts still might be able to administer standardized tests in science and social studies -- if they are willing to pay for it themselves.

The state budget recently passed by lawmakers includes a 60 percent cut in funding next school year for the Missouri Assessment Program tests, leaving enough money to pay for only the math and communication arts portions.

But state education officials said Wednesday that schools will be given the option of paying for the science and social studies tests. The health and physical education test will not be offered.

In order for it to be worthwhile to print the science and social studies tests, they would have to be administered to about 48,000 students in each grade level -- about two-thirds of the students statewide in each grade, said state Education Commissioner Kent King.

If not enough schools chose to administer the two tests, then they won't be given to anyone, King said.

State education board president Russell Thompson of Columbia said he supports the testing option, although the board's approval was not necessary for King's decision.

Lawmakers cut the state's contribution to the MAP tests to $5.1 million for next school year, instead of the $12.8 million appropriated this year.

The cut was prompted partly by general state budget woes and partly by complaints from some lawmakers and teachers that the tests are cumbersome and sometimes go beyond reasonable expectations of what children should know.

But many school administrators value the tests, partly because the results are used by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to determine a district's accreditation.

King said districts opting to pay for the science and social studies tests could continue to count those results toward their accreditation formula.

Districts opting not to give the tests would not be penalized in the accreditation process, he said.

Some local school officials gave mixed reviews to the state's pay-on-your-own testing option.

While the tests should not be eliminated, schools might be pinched to pay for them, said John Martin, superintendent of the Grandview School District.

"I'm not sure we are in any better position to deal with added cost than the state was," Martin said. "It is going to be something we are going to have to take a long hard look at."

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On the Net:

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: http://www.dese.state.mo.us

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