Feeling like a failure…is it valid?

My district uses NWEA MAP scores to measure student growth. Our students take the test in the fall, are give a target to reach when they take the spring test. We have been using the Math and Reading tests for the past 3 years and this year we added the general science test. This week my classes took thescience test. We missed the growth target! One of my student growth data points will not be rated as effective. For me to have gotten effective 60% or more of my students needed to hit their growth target as projected by NWEA. We missed. I feel I have failed my class.

Or at least I did until:

A student took the 45 question test in 10 minutes and saw their test score jump 13 points!! Wait, What? I can’t read 45 questions in 10 minutes, That is answering a question about every 13 seconds is that possible with any accuracy? Yes, I know this student met their target, but it makes me question the validity of the test for every student. If someone can score higher by chance, can’t they also score lower? Should their be a way to make sure students actually read the test? Or is that one me monitoring 30+ students? (In fact this student tested 1 on 1 with another teacher because they we absent when the test was given) The fact is this student growth is reflected in MY teacher evaluation, it leaves me with a few questions.


1. Where do the growth targets come from? Not all students grow at the same rate so how in the world can NWEA project these targets? I have been told that they are calculated as the average growth for everyone that scores the same RIT score. IF so then 50% of ALL students will fall above and 50% will fall below as a law of averages.

2. What standards is the NWEA test based upon? I assume common core for ELA and Math, is it Next Gen for science? Surely not the Michigan 7th grade science standards that I am required to teach.

3. If students are above grade level, is it expected for them to grow? Teachers teach a grade level content standard, how can students grow in areas that are not taught as defined by curriculum? I know teachers need to offer enrichment opportunities in class but the dig deeper into curriculum not into high level curriculum that the NWEA test measures.

4. Do multiple choice test really measure knowledge? I often call them multiple guess tests. Most of my student love multiple choice because they can take a guess. They hate fill in the blank and short answer questions because that requires them to have the knowledge. I find it funny that a student who takes 30 minutes to try and unsuccessful complete a short answer test is done in 30 seconds with a similar multiple choice one! The new assessment for the common core are placing an emphasis on more open ended questions so why not NWEA?

5. Do these test scores correlate to content mastery? Is there evidence that doing will on MAP tests means students DO know the content knowledge?

I know these are changing times. Teachers are responsible for making sure our students grow. I KNOW every single student in my class grew in many different ways this year. I have their classwork to prove it. I hope the laws will be fixed so teachers like me don’t feel like FAILURES.

I will continue to strive to be the best teacher I can. I don’t want to resort to teaching to the NWEA (or any test) just to keep my job, I personally feel that would be educational malpractice.

4 thoughts on “Feeling like a failure…is it valid?

  1. Todd:
    These are questions and ideas that I have struggled with for several years. The truth is that as accomplished teachers it is our responsibility to know all the nuances of our students, their strengths, weaknesses, goals, interests, personalities, learning styles…the list could go on and on. This is complex, multifaceted and ever changing. There is no way that one standardized test can ever hope to give us an accurate snapshot of years worth of learning in one day. However, this is a reality that those who make these mandates often fail to realize. I know that it is frustrating. I don’t know that there is an answer, but personally I had to learn to let go of those unfair labels and be able to look at myself in the mirror knowing that I was providing each and every child the best education possible. Keep asking questions and speaking up for the students. If you don’t, no one else may.

    Thanks for transparently sharing your ideas.

  2. Failure is a funny thing. I look at my job and try to measure success and it is not easy. If a kid gets an “A” in my class, is it because I taught them, or are their other factors at play. The other side is also true. If a kid failed, is it because I did not do all that I can or did outside issues cause the failure.

    For me, I focus on what I can control. If I feel I offered every way for a student to understand the material and I looked for new ways to approach, I will feel ok with failure. Not trying and failing is a problem.

    If you know you busted your butt and some of your kids failed the exam, you have every right to question the exam and the process in which the kids took the exam. Then, you will make corrections for the next set of kids because that is what teachers. You do not have to teach to the test, but you can tweak lessons that will help better prepare students for the exam.

    It’s all a painful chess match where teachers have to find the best way to educate students AND pass terribly written exams that provide little useful data.

    Also, the fact that you are thinking about this and questioning the process means you are not a failure. Failures are people that stop trying. The fact your wrote about this is proof you are not a failure.

    Keep fighting the good fight.


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