UPDATE (1/24/2013): The article below brought up some interesting discussion on this topic. There is much conversation nationally about the proliferation of testing. Many educators and parents feel anxious about the content of the tests, the ways test results are (and are not) being used, and the impact frequent testing is having on time for teaching and learning. The article, “Movement to End High-Stakes Testing Steps Up in Seattle” is just one example of the type of conversations occurring around the country. Testing evokes a lot of questions, but it is important to remember that the question isn’t whether testing is good or bad. It’s whether or not the tests are valid for the students who take them, and whether we have systems in place to use the results to create better learning environments. This is particularly true for top-performing students, and for teachers and principals for whom accountability is based on student ‘growth.’ If the tests don’t have enough flexibility to capture the full extent of these students’ abilities, they can’t show evidence of growth for these students even if teachers and school are doing all the right things instructionally. This is why above-grade-level testing is important for top-performing students.
Let’s Talk Talent! — “More than MAP”
bv Juliet Frate
Center for Talent Development publishes a quarterly newsletter, called Talent, dedicated to current issues in gifted education. We want to extend the conversation and will now be supplementing our newsletter on our Talent Talk blog with ‘’Let’s Talk Talent!’’ posts — like this one!
In our most recent Talent, we talked about the Measures of Academic Progress®, known as the MAP test, in an article titled, “More than MAP: Why Gifted Students Need NUMATS More Than Ever.” Many schools use this computerized adaptive test to gauge student learning in reading, math and science. MAP assessments are given to all students, and they are particularly good at identifying grade-level skill deficits and in providing an indication as to whether a student is achieving beyond grade level.
MAP, however, does not give enough information about the extent of a gifted student’s abilities and how they compare to those of other high achievers. Teachers and parents need more detailed information to truly understand a gifted student’s strengths and weaknesses and foster his/her development.
Above-grade-level assessments and follow-up resources offered through talent searches, like Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS),¹ meet these needs. Reasons why include:
1. NUMATS provides an accurate norming group (comparison group) for gifted students. Results from tests like MAP are compared to the results of students from all ability levels . . . not just high-ability levels.
2. NUMATS uses true, above-grade-level tests with questions on advanced content. MAP does not differentiate level of question difficulty beyond a certain point . . . and that point (or ceiling) does not measure the full extent of a gifted student’s abilities.
3. NUMATS specializes in providing resources and opportunities specifically designed for gifted students and their families.
Check this space soon for more about each of the reasons above. What is your understanding of these assessments? Join the conversation in the comments section below!
¹ NUMATS uses the EXPLORE® test—developed by ACT® and normally given to students in grade 8—to determine the abilities of students in grades 3 through 6. The ACT and the SAT® tests, typically used for college admissions, provide a more accurate picture of the mathematical and verbal reasoning abilities of students in grades 6 through 9. After students test, parents receive comprehensive information about how their student’s scores compare to those of other gifted students. This valuable feedback helps families plan for the future. NUMATS serves students in the Midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Similar Talent Search institutions serve other regions across the country.
Juliet Frate is coordinator for Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search. She has worked as an educator and researcher for over 30 years. Frate received the Educator of the Year award for her work as a school counselor and International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme Coordinator. She holds a master of education, with a focus on educational psychology, from The University of Mississippi.