Test offers quick result

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AIKEN --- No. 2 pencils aren't needed for this test.

Instead, instant computer-generated feedback is given from the Measures of Academic Progress test, or MAP, to provide teachers and pupils information to immediately adjust instruction.

The MAP test has been implemented throughout South Carolina in the past few years. Aiken County schools began using the test after a trial run last year.

About three out of four school districts in the state use MAP, according to Jim Foster, a state Education Department spokesman.

Unlike the state standardized Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, which doesn't provide data for months, MAP immediately offers a score. Teachers can take that information and use it to alter day-to-day curricula for all of their pupils.

Although the test isn't officially endorsed by the state Education Department, districts favor it because it gives diagnostics on pupils that the state's standardized testing can't offer, Mr. Foster said.

For example, PACT might report that a child performed at a basic level in math, but scores would not show where the child excelled within the subject or where help was needed. With MAP, a child's specific needs can be addressed.

"It's adaptive to the education level of the child," said David Mathis, Aiken County's associate superintendent for administration. "When they take the test on the computer, they start it for their grade level. After so many questions answered correctly, it gets more difficult, or it goes down (in difficulty) after so many incorrect answers."

The test is given to pupils in second through eighth grades as often as three times a year. Pupils are evaluated in math, reading and English/language arts.

Each test lasts about 50 minutes, far less than the two weeks for PACT testing.

Administrators say they aren't seeing the same anxiety problems with MAP testing that they've found with other testing methods.

The test is given in a computer lab, and pupils treat it as if it were a weekly math or reading test, Dr. Mathis said.

"Our goal is to make this an extension of the classroom," he said.

Busbee Elementary already has a class period oriented to MAP time.

After homeroom, pupils in second through fifth grades go to a class geared specifically to their level.

A second-grader who reads on a fifth-grade level can attend a class with every child who reads on his or her level.

The situation could have been chaotic, but Principal John Mills said it has been successful.

"I've had nothing but positive remarks from teachers about how much they're enjoying teaching kids that are all on one level," said Busbee Principal John Mills. "It is very hands-on and direct instruction. There's not a lot of fluff during that 30 minutes."

Other principals are looking at Busbee as an example of how to use MAP daily.

"One of the gripes that we've always had about PACT is it doesn't have information about student achievement," Mr. Mills said. "We use this information and use it every day, and that makes it so valuable to us. If I had to make a choice, I'd take MAP over PACT."

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.


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