Teachers get taught through MAP scoring

Friday, June 21, 2002

MISSOURI ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

BY HEATHER KRONMUELLER ~ Southeast Missourian

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Teachers from across Missouri exchanged three weeks of their summer vacations to grade Missouri Assessment Program tests, hoping to learn more about the annual exam so they can help their students better prepare for it.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education hired 216 teachers to score the MAP over a 15-day period and offered to pay each a stipend of $100 per day.

Many of the 24 teachers grading the third-grade science portion of the exam in Sikeston said learning scoring procedures and gaining insight into how children answer the questions are priceless.

Shaun Bates, a sixth-grade teacher at Malden Elementary School in Malden, Mo., said grading the test at the district's career and technology center has given him several ideas for teaching strategies to take back to his co-workers.

"We need to teach them how to be a problem solver, not a fact finder," Bates said. "We need to teach the kids to use the processes of science so they can not just answer a question but show how they got that answer."

The MAP, which is part multiple choice and part short answer, tests students each spring in grades three through seven and nine through 11 in the areas of communication arts, math, science, social studies and health/physical education. At each grade level students are only tested on, at most, two of the areas.

Split scoring

When the tests are completed school districts mail the booklets to test publisher CTB/McGraw-Hill's headquarters in California and Indiana, where the multiple choice sections are electronically scored.

The remaining sections of each of the 450,000 individual tests are electronically scanned into a computer database for hand-scoring.

But instead of doing all of the hand-scoring in California and Indiana, about 90 percent of the exams are forwarded electronically through a secure Internet connection to nine regional scoring sites in Missouri.

School districts will receive the results of the test in late August.

On June 10, the teachers received scoring guides and started learning about scoring procedures. Since the students write out their answers, the teachers had to learn what types of responses would be acceptable and how to use the computer to decipher messy handwriting.

Anne Owen, a third-grade teacher at Clippard Elementary in Cape Girardeau, said sometimes a child's handwriting isn't clear because he tried to write in cursive or because he tried to erase an answer and then wrote the new answer over that area.

Using the computer, Owen can zoom in and out on words or sentences, invert the colors on the screen so the type is in white and the background is black, and even electronically remove smudges to see the answers more clearly.

Roblyn Hatch, MAP coordinator for the Southeast Regional Professional Development Center at Southeast Missouri State University, said if the teachers do everything they can to try to decipher an answer and still can't clearly see what it is, she has to notify CTB/McGraw-Hill.

If that happens, someone at the headquarters retrieves the hard copy of the test from a warehouse and scores it by hand without the computer.

Confidentiality a must

During all of the scoring the names of the students, and the schools they attend, are kept confidential. The teachers can only see the answers on the page and have no idea whose test they are scoring.

Visitors, including teachers who are invited to watch the scoring process, have to sign disclosure forms saying they will not reveal any of the test questions or answers.

When the teachers are done scoring a page, they click a button next to the number of correct items the student had on that page, click OK and a new page pops up.

Valerie Nelson, science consultant for curriculum services at DESE, said it seemed only natural that teachers would assist in the grading process since they are already involved with the creation of the test.

"CTB/McGraw-Hill develops a scoring guide for the test and edits the test, but the teachers write it," Nelson said. "The teachers have a great deal of ownership in it."

Prior to 2001, when DESE conducted a pilot with 125 teachers, the tests were all graded at CTB/McGraw-Hill headquarters. That meant teachers could only try to guess the criteria on which the students were being graded and hope their students succeeded.

"They give us so many rules -- don't use pronouns, write the answers on the lines -- and those are very good rules, but now we know the children are scored only on their answers," said Mary Ann Stamp, a fifth-grade teacher at Alma Schrader Elementary School in Cape Girardeau.

Stamp said she believes the rules, like answering on the lines and writing legibly, are in place to make the scoring process easier on the scorer. She said teachers need to learn to instruct their students to not only answer the question on the test, but show how and why they came up with that answer.

Amanda Freeman, a fifth-grade teacher at Delta Elementary in Delta, Mo., said she's taking a list of MAP tips back to her co-workers when she's done scoring.

She said some things students could improve on with writing are writing legibly; using qualifiers, such as very, much and more; and quickly getting to the point.

The future of the science and social studies portions of the MAP, and their scoring procedures remain uncertain, since the state legislature cut funding for them during spring legislation.

Nelson, with DESE, said once the department knows how many districts will be paying to administer the two now-optional sections, a decision will be made regarding scoring.

So far 362 districts have said they will pay for the science and social studies tests next year, 56 said they won't and about another 75 have not yet decided.

hkronmueller@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 128

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