Shedding some light on MAPS testing

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Moans and groans echo through the hallways when word gets around that it is time for students to take Measure of Academic Progress tests. Students have a hard time seeing the importance of MAPS testing; however, there are many benefits that the tests provide.
The state of New Mexico requires all schools to provide a series of short-cycle assessments. The Los Alamos School District chose MAPS tests. As a part of No Child Left Behind, these short-cycle assessments aim toward preparing students for the Standards Based Assessment, which is the test that must be passed in order to graduate.
Los Alamos High School Principal Sandra Warnock said, “MAPS testing is a good way to monitor student progress and see which students are proficient. For those who are not proficient, test and college prep classes and other help will be provided in order to help the student reach the standards.”
Though MAPS testing does not affect graduation, it can be a useful tool as one teacher at Los Alamos high school said, “MAPS testing offers a prescription for students who are not proficient. Overall, it can determine where kids need work.”
MAPS testing may be a great tool to weed out which students need help, but many people find it unnecessary, especially students.
“I think MAPS testing is pointless. It takes time out of our learning environment to test us on something we don’t care about,” said Ashley Brown, a junior at LAHS.
Another student, sophomore Teresa Sandoval agrees. “They take away from quality teaching time where we might actually learn something.”
Many teachers also believe that MAPS tests are unnecessary and take away from valuable teaching time. One teacher said,  “I think teachers are already able to infer the level of proficiency of their students based on class work without a standardized test.”
A teacher in the special education department said that MAPS testing is not always an accurate way to measure a student’s progress.
“The scores often depend on how a student is feeling at the moment they take the test. Students who are not interested or are having a bad day will not perform their best. The tests reveal merely a ‘snap shot’ of a child’s frequently resonating learning curves.”
MAPS tests are computerized multiple choice tests that, as short-cycle assessments, are required to be taken three times a year: during fall, winter and spring.
Sophomore Dalton Smith said he feels MAPS testing does not benefit students to a great degree. “There’s no way to rate kids based on a single multiple-choice test. Also, we can’t skip questions or go back to correct answers, a strategy for testing that we’ve been taught to use for years.”
Any kind of standardized testing involves a cost. A lot of teachers and students see MAPS testing as an unnecessary expense because there are so many other tests already provided, such at the SAT, ACT and others.
One teacher argues, “We are already paying for the tests that come with the curriculum. We should use them rather than paying for another test.”
Warnock said MAPS testing could be replaced by different tests for each individual subject; however, this would cost a lot more time and money for LAPS to develop and have approved by the state.
These standardized tests may seem unimportant and redundant, but without them, it would be difficult to get help for students who need it. They also help prepare students for future testing.
“Many students are high performers and are proficient, but not every student is. It is important for us to distinguish these students from others and provide the environment necessary for them to succeed in the future,” Warnock said.