This past December, 21st, 2012, Garfield High School posted a letter for their reasons in boycotting an on-line adaptive web-based assessment exam called Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP). The MAP test is a computerized adaptive assessment tool used to measure growth of learning for a student. MAP dynamically adapts to a students responses as they take the test so if a question is missed then a simpler item is offered automatically. If a question is answered correctly, the test presents a more challenging item. The results then allow decision makers at all levels to review aggregated data for better teaching tools and preparation for high-stakes testing. MAP is created by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).
Unfortunately what was created by educators for educators has reached national debate over what is the best way to educate and assess learning. Various issues are identified in the letter including English Second Language students who are at a disadvantage to this type of assessment, to following the Common Core State Standards, and to an administrator that selected the MAP product but is no longer with the school district. Thus the issue has grown into a solidarity movement now on Facebook.
Technology Access and Time
One of the key elements of this debate is the access to technology which is highlighted here in the letter...
In addition to students losing class time to take the test, our computer labs are clogged for weeks with test taking and cannot be used for other educational purposes. For example, students who have a research project no longer have access to the computers they need to further their exploration into their research topic. This especially hurts students without computers at home. We object to our educational resources being monopolized by a test we cannot support.
How can technology be better leveraged here to help students, home educators, and teachers? As more and more teaching content moves online to the cloud, apps, and eBooks which are accessed through laptops, tablets, and eReaders... what happens to those that cannot get access to these tools?
Budget and Allocation
On February 12th, 2013 a second letter was posted on Facebook with the excerpt:
Seattle Public Schools' annual “operating budget” for delivering 180 days of instruction to our students this year is around $566 million; it costs over $3 million per day to operate our schools. If we end MAP testing now, millions of dollars of this year’s operating budget will be spent on school days of teaching and learning instead of on days of ineffective MAP testing.
Stated on Facebook in a letter by the National Board Certified Teachers
People and Technology
Finally the most complex and challenging hurdle is people and how they effectively integrate with technology.
Tools are programmed by people to make lives easier but tools and the data collected can be misused.
There are too many cases inside and outside of education where large expensive systems are developed and fail to be adopted within an organization because they did not meet the requirements of the users. The major challenges are:
- Each user has different requirements
- Unfortunately custom software for each school or student is not cost effective or scalable for a business
- The goal is to determine the key 20% of the features that meet 80% of the needs
This is a classic issue of pragmatic product management and truly understanding the requirements of the market, the schools, the teachers, and the students... All requirements then must be vetted and prioritizing properly... yet there is no perfect solution and often if the users are not involved in the creation and selection of software the solution will fail. In this case it has resulted in a national debate.
Once stakeholders have been involved into the process of developing these tools there are more challenges which include training, preparation, evaluation, support, and how the data is used in the end to make improvements. How can the scores be used as tools for the teacher versus scores against the teacher? How can this be a tool to improve education? The integration of people and technology will be an ongoing challenge in this brave new world.