School testing brings a host of comments – all negative – and those are from educators.

For maybe 15 years, we heard about the necessity to “hold schools accountable” and that meant rigid test standards and scores that were understandable.

Scores are based on a 100-point scale or a letter grade, much like we would see on a student’s report card.

For the past two or three years, the pendulum has swung a bit and we hear more about the high-stress of tests, about student and teacher worries about the results and more about the “social and emotional” health of students.

Superintendents have been denigrating required testing for years. I have heard it as long as I have been in Georgia, more than eight years.

The new answer seems to me MAP tests. They provide immediate, or near immediate, results and are adapted to individual students. Questions get more difficult as the students answer correctly, one explanation goes. The MAP test also is more frequent and shorter than the Milestones tests.

Barrow and Jackson counties’ schools are part of a 10- or 11-county that is grappling with how to replace the Georgia Milestones tests with MAP.

Let’s assume that is going to happen. In a year or two, students will be doing MAP tests instead of Milestones.

How will that change our schools? If we do three MAP tests, beginning, middle and end of the school year, what will parents get? What will teachers get? How will school districts use the information?

Will school districts still get “grades” and if not, will there be anything to replace them.

Georgia has a “report card” for school districts and for schools within those districts.

Superintendents bad mouth those “grades,” saying they are a “snapshot,” or they don’t measure the proper things. But one of the things measured is financial efficiency. Is that useless, too?

A group known as “nwea” is the major creator and proponent of MAP. The nonprofit says it develops testing “solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency – and provide insights to help tailor instruction.”

One of the “frequently asked questions” about MAP tests, according to nwea, is “what information will I receive from my child’s school.” It says parents should get a “student progress report” that has results from a “student’s most recent and past MAP tests.” The answer also says parents “will want to know about (how) they can use their child’s reading and math scores to identify resources that can support home learning.”

I haven’t seen anything that says students who take MAP tests will know more or be able to do more, as high school graduates. The current system certainly doesn’t do that either.

Learning how “successful” students are four or six or some number of years after high school is a damnably difficult measurement. First, who decides what a success is?

Do we look at salaries? Only salaries?

How do we include citizenship in that equation?

Critical thinking is a big deal in education these days, as in collaboration. How are those measured?

“Pathways” are touted as a current way to engage students, expose them to different career paths. Some school districts offer 40 or more “pathways.” Some don’t have any.

Perhaps more importantly, one of the more frequently quoted statements these days is a high percentage of jobs students will seek in 10 years or less do not exist today.

How do we educate kids for that? We may be back to the critical thinking and collaboration. Both of those are subjective topics.

Education is a messy business. It is a paraphrase of one of the more profound concepts I’ve heard.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers. Send email to him at ron@mainstreetnews.com.

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