Rolla Board of Education gets a review of "assessments" given each spring

It's nearly time for the spring assessments at Rolla Public Schools and in school districts throughout Missouri.

Recently, Assistant Superintendent Craig Hounsom gave the Rolla Board of Education a quick review of the assessments (or what people outside of education call tests).

The spring tests are given at various grade levels in the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP). There are also end-of-course assessments (EOC), the American College Test (ACT) available to all juniors whether they plan on going to college or not, the ASVAB that tests vocational aptitude for sophomores, the ACCESS test given to English language learners, Advanced Placement (AP) tests to gain some college credit without taking courses.

MAP tests, the grade level assessments, are given in grades 3-8 in English language arts and in mathematics. Grade 5 and 8 tests also include science and some special questions called "performance events" in English and math.

The MAP tests are written to the Missouri Learning Standards—the "old" standards, Hounsom clarified—and are given via computer. Thanks to the technology, today's students don't get multiple-choice questions on paper; they get various "drag and drop" or "sorting" or other questions.

All students take a MAP test, including those in the special education program; they take the MAP-A tests

Because of the computerization, the state promises a quicker return of the results.

"I tell you that every year," Hounsom said. "That is yet to happen."

The EOC tests are given in grades 9-12 in algebra I and II, geometry, English I and II, biology and U.S. government classes. These are written to the "old" Missouri Learning Standards.

"Students take this assessment after they have taken the course," Hounsom said. "We like the EOC better."

There is quite a bit of preparation for the state assessments. Teachers are trained regarding security and the testing platform, meaning the types of computers used. Students practice taking the tests so they know what to do.

"We are not in the practice of teaching to the test," Hounsom said, but students need to know how to operate the computer programs to draw graph lines, for instance, so they are given tutorials on the way to take the test and "mark" the answers using a computer.

Hounsom said the spring assessments this year will be written to the current Missouri Learning Standards in use, but the spring 2018 assessments will be written to new Missouri Learning Standards that were adopted in April 2016 but not yet put to use.

In other recent business:

* The board approved contracts for painting of the Mark Twain Elementary School entryway, the Rolla Technical Center/D. Kent King Administrative Center exterior and a set of lockers. Also approved was a bid for the reupholstery of seats in the Rolla Middle School Auditorium.

* The board approved hiring up to six additional early childhood teachers and up to six additional paraprofessionals, along with a high school special education teacher for the 2017-2018 school year.

* It was noted the next meeting will be March 23 and the April meetings will be April 13 and 27.