by Scott Neuffer

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August 16, 2012
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School district axes redundant graduation test requirements

In 2008, the Douglas County Grand Jury Report advised the school district to eliminate "overlapping and possibly redundant" tests, specifically the district's own measure of academic progress, or MAP, testing.

On Tuesday, school board members voted unanimously to remove MAP graduation requirements in reading, language and science.

The move came not as a belated response to the grand jury report, but as a response to new, tougher state standards.

"We're not reducing standards, but recognizing we have appropriate state standards now," said District Director of Grants and Assessments Brian Frazier.

In short, a student who wishes to graduate from Douglas or Whittell high schools must now pass four High School Proficiency Exams in reading, math, science and writing. Previously, students had to pass three MAP tests (reading, language and science) in addition to the HSPEs.

MAP testing was first implemented in the district in the late 1990s to measure student's academic growth throughout the year. However, arguing that state requirements at the time were inferior to their own standards, district officials required MAPs for graduation.

In 2001, school board members removed the math MAP as a graduation requirement because the then new math HSPE was determined to meet or exceed district standards. MAP requirements in other core subjects remained.

In 2008, the Douglas County Grand Jury recommended "eliminating unnecessary testing and simplifying the graduation requirements." At that time, Frazier argued the state was still lacking rigorous standards in certain areas.

"District tests are required for graduation in areas where the state either doesn't have an exam or the existing state exam does not have the rigor of the district assessment," he said in a 2008 interview.

Four years later, through the roll-out of Common Core State Standards, the Nevada Department of Education has raised the bar and met or exceeded district standards in reading, language and science, Frazier said.

But that doesn't mean MAP testing is going away. No longer required for graduation, revised MAPs will still be used for reading and math in grades K-9, and for science in grades 7-9. Teachers will also be able to request MAP testing for students struggling in language.

Frazier said the tests will be administered in the fall and spring of each year, and will provide crucial, interim data on how students are progressing, something state tests don't provide.

"The MAPs will truly be used as growth indicators for student instruction and as tools for teachers," he said.

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The Record Courier Updated Aug 16, 2012 03:46PM Published Aug 16, 2012 03:45PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.