School districts asked to pay for MAP tests
SIKESTON -- Although 75 percent of Missouri's public school districts and charter schools have offered to pay for next year's standardized science and social studies test, some local superintendents aren't among the majority. Of those who are paying for it, they feel like they weren't given a choice.
As of last Wednesday, 394 of the state's 524 school districts and about half of Missouri's 22 charter schools indicated they would be willing to pay for Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests in science and social studies.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said that because the response to pay for the tests was so overwhelming, it will be worthwhile for the tests to be printed. If not enough schools had chosen to pay, then the tests would not have been given to anyone.
Charleston School District is one of the area schools paying for the tests next year, but it's not their preferred choice. "We're doing it (paying for the tests), but I'm not happy about it," Charleston Superintendent Joe Forrest said. "I feel like they're forcing it on us."
The state budget passed by lawmakers included a 60 percent cut in funding next school year for the tests, leaving enough money to pay for only the math and communication arts portions.
Lawmakers cut the state's contribution to the MAP tests to $5.1 million for next school year, instead of the 12.8 million appropriated this year.
That means the state can no longer afford to pay for the science, social studies and health and physical education tests. A sixth tests, in fine arts, was to debut this spring but the state also postponed that.
Another 63 school districts, including East Prairie, Scott County Central, Scott City and Dexter school districts, and three charter schools opted not to pay for the tests themselves. No response was received from 67 districts. As of press time today, Sikeston, Kelly, Portageville and New Madrid County School District administrators were unavailable to confirm whether or not their schools will be paying for the tests next year.
The cut was prompted partly by general state budget woes and partly by complaints from lawmakers and teachers that the tests are cumbersome and sometimes go beyond reasonable expectations of what children should know.
"We're not going to pay for the test," said Scott County Central Superintendent Ray Shoaf. "Even if it was voluntary and the state paid for it, we still wouldn't take the test. It's just not a good test."
Shoaf believes the MAP test is not a common testing practice because it tests a grade one year, and then the next year, the same test is given to the same grade, but different students. He doesn't think the test can accurately measure a particular student's or school's academic progress.
Districts that administer the tests will have to pay $7.12 for each student to given the science test and $7.56 a piece for the social studies test.
"We're doing it because we feel like we need to be doing it for accreditation," Forrest said. "Otherwise we wouldn't be doing it all."
Missouri schools are already required by DESE to decide whether or not they will pay for their tests next year. Forrest said schools haven't gotten this year's MAP scores back so he doesn't know how well his school did. If he knew they did well, the school wouldn't pay for the tests next year. Good MAP scores are essential in accreditation, he said.
However, DESE reports schools who don't pay for the tests will still have a fair chance at accreditation.
"It's just simple math," Shoaf said. "By giving six areas of the test, you better your chance of a higher accreditation score. You have a better chance with six areas than you do two."
Both Shoaf and Forrest have talked to other local administrators and said many feel the same as they do about paying for the tests. Forrest is also worried that if schools pay for the tests next year, the state will keep expecting them to pay for it every year.
Shoaf said: "They're (DESE) trying to reinvent the wheel. We (superintendents) know their decisions are not educationally sound, but yet we follow the road anyway."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.