Last week, after much hand-wringing, we sent home Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) reports for our EC3-G10 students. For us, the best news thus far is not that we’re outperforming other international schools in Math, Reading, and Language Usage in nearly every grade level (we are) but rather, this: Not a single parent has contacted me to complain about their child’s results 🙂 Hurraaaayyy!!!

As anyone who reads the BIS Buzz or attends Parent Coffee Mornings already knows, standardized tests make us extremely uncomfortable. Here’s why:

  1. Every child is unique, yet we evaluate them with one-size-fits-all tests
  2. Standardized tests tell us nothing of the character traits needed for success – and happiness – in the real world
  3. Many parents and schools don’t look at scores to measure ‘growth’ or ‘achievement’, but rather to ‘rank’ their children compared to others.

Let’s be crystal clear about our own test anxiety: if we find that sharing student MAP scores is leading our community to rank, label, or compare our students with each other, we will stop sharing the results. If test scores ever become more important than developing a love for learning, we will have failed as a school.

Grim warnings aside, we are optimistic that our use of MAP testing will be more positive than typical standardized tests in a number of ways:

  1. MAP testing takes about an hour, twice a year. That’s it.
  2. Students can’t really study for MAP, and thus shouldn’t stress about it.
  3. The tests are ‘adaptive’, meaning that they get easier or harder depending on the individual taking them, thus giving a more authentic ‘result’.
  4. They provide teachers with valuable feedback to calibrate their classroom practices.
  5. MAP focuses on growth. Parents and students: Please, please, please do not pay close attention to ‘mean scores’ or ‘percentiles’. Students, you should be focused on one thing only: improving your own performance year over year. Teachers don’t care whether you score higher or lower than anyone else – they care that you score higher than your previous self!

There is, of course, one more reason we’ve decided to share our MAP scores: To please our beloved Tiger Moms and Dads 🙂 We get it – we do things differently at BIS, and that makes some parents worry whether their kids can be creative, confident, and collaborative, and also get great test results. The answer is clearly yes. We don’t believe exam scores are the best measure of meaningful learning and true potential – but until the rest of the world catches up (we’re looking at you, Singapore… see Food for Thought article below), we’ll continue to prove that engaged students learn more, no matter how you measure it.

Mr. Toomer