The word “testing” likely causes dread in even most adults, and The Rolla School District is currently immersed in several week-long sessions of it. The Missouri Assessment Program, commonly referred to as the MAP Test, regularly measures the abilities of Missouri’s students as part of each school district’s evaluation. Craig Hounsom, assistant superintendent for the Rolla School District spoke about the potential pressures associated with standardized testing, and how the administration is sure to help kids remain as stress-free as possible.

The word “testing” likely causes dread in even most adults, and The Rolla School District is currently immersed in several week-long sessions of it. The Missouri Assessment Program, commonly referred to as the MAP Test, regularly measures the abilities of Missouri’s students as part of each school district’s evaluation. Craig Hounsom, assistant superintendent for the Rolla School District spoke about the potential pressures associated with standardized testing, and how the administration is sure to help kids remain as stress-free as possible.

“We try to keep it in perspective,” Hounsom said. “We’re not going to say it’s not important when almost half of the points from the current Annual Performance Report (APR) are earned from performance on the MAP Test.” The APR is what the state of Missouri uses to determine accreditation for public schools, according to Hounsom.

“The tests are designed to measure what kids are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level. As a reflection of how our kids do, it also lets us evaluate our programs,” said Hounsom. However, he also added, “We are not going to overemphasize how we do on the MAP Test and we will not allow our district to be defined by a single-shot standardized test.”

Hounsom said the tests are important in a functional way, but don’t measure the strides the district is taking in the fine arts, athletics or in their relationships with the students. Hounsom said they aren’t interested in defining their students by how they do on a single standardized test, even if the pressure to do so is high.

“Because of the importance the state puts on them (the tests), it’s not hard to do,” Hounsom said. “There are some districts where you’ll even see people getting in trouble for changing answers. They do that because of high pressure to do well. We never want that to take over here.”

Hounsom said the school district doesn’t want to give students and parents the impression these tests are more important than they are, and wants to make sure students aren’t stressing out about the tests they will be taking in the coming weeks.

“They are important, but they are only a part of how we look at ourselves and our programming. They’re not everything,” said Hounsom.

A district’s performance on the MAP Test makes up 70 points out of a potential 140 on the APR. These 70 points are directly tied to the students. Students in grades 3rd through 8th take a test in English/language arts and math, while 5th and 8th graders take an additional test in science. The English test is taken in multiple sessions, measuring writing skills, grammar and comprehension.

High school students aren’t exempt from standardized testing either, although their’s is shaped differently than elementary and middle school students. High school students take an end of course exam at the end of Algebra 1, Biology, Government, and English 2. Because the students take these tests as part of each class rather than all at once at a designated time, Hounsom said the process is more efficient and preferable. High school students take similar tests after English 1, Geometry and Algebra 2, but these scores are not part of the other end of course exams.

The material covered on the MAP test and end of course exams are intended to match the standards handed down by the state. The curriculum taught by the public schools matches these standards, according to Hounsom, so the teachers don’t have to specifically prep for the MAP tests outside of their normal lesson plans. The students are however, given opportunities to get a feel for the way the test is taken online.

“We don’t want to put kids in an environment, taking a test on the computer when they’ve never experienced that before, with everything else being done on pencil and paper,” said Hounsom. “We don’t want the test to measure how good the kids are at manipulating the tools on the platform verses demonstrating their knowledge. We don’t want them logged on and not understand how to answer a question and have that reflect poorly.”

So despite the importance of these tests, Hounsom encourages parents and community members to help their students stay as relaxed as possible, and not feel the pressure found in some other districts.

“The biggest thing we ask, is to talk to kids and make sure they’re not over stressing,” said Hounsom. “We don’t want the test to be a high anxiety, high stress situation.” Hounsom asks for students to do their best and take their test seriously, but all they’re asking for is an honest effort.

“If at the end you tried your best, then your score is perfectly fine,” said Hounsom. “That’s what we want parent’s reassuring kids.”

Hounsom said that he probably can’t expect students to enjoy the MAP Test and end of course exams, but they should at least do their best to relax.

“This is simply your opportunity to show your parents what you know and show your teachers how far you’ve come,” said Hounsom.

Hounsom said historically, The Rolla School District does very well on the MAP Test and end of course exams, and boasted scores in the upper 90’s on last year’s APR.