DeKalb's New Assessment Tests

standardized testing

Starting tomorrow (Aug 15), the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments will replace Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS), components of the the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), Renaissance’s STAR Early Literacy, STAR Reading and STAR Math.

Tracey Crenshaw DeKalb Vanderlyn Principal

Tracey Crenshaw
Principal, Vanderlyn Elementary School

The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will utilize the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) as the initial assessment towards gifted identification beginning the 2016-2017 school year for students in grades K-10. Students who score > 90% RT (Reading Total) or > 90% MT (Math Total) on the nationally norm-referenced assessment (MAP) will take additional gifted formal evaluations. Although the MAP assessment is administered three times per year, the gifted eligibility window is August-September for currently enrolled students. Specifically, students will be assessed August 15 – September 13, 2016.
If you have any other questions me, Stan Jester (

Parent’s Guide to MAP
1. What is MAP?
You may be familiar with paper and pencil tests where all students are asked the same questions and spend a fixed amount of time taking the test. Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is different. MAP is a computer adaptive test, which means every student gets a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions get harder. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions get easier. By the end of the test, most students will answer about half the questions correctly.
2. What does MAP measure?
MAP results are provided as a numerical RIT score. This score is used to measure a student’s achievement level at different times of the school year and compute growth. Think of this like marking height on a growth chart. You can tell how tall your child is at various points in time and how much they have grown between one time and another.
3. What is a RIT score?
After each MAP test, students receive a RIT score. Think of the score as a student’s height. The score reflects the student’s academic knowledge, skills, and abilities like inches reflect height.
The RIT (Rasch Unit) scale is a stable, equal-interval scale, like feet and inches. Equal-interval means that a change of 10 RIT points indicates the same thing regardless of whether a student is at the top, bottom, or middle of the scale, and a RIT score has the same meaning regardless of grade level or age of the student. Scores over time can be compared to tell how much growth a student has made, similar to measuring height with a ruler.
4. How do schools and teachers use MAP scores?
NWEA provides many different reports to help schools and teachers use MAP information. Schools, grade levels, and classes can be monitored to see how students are growing.
Teachers can see the progress of individual students and of their class as a whole. Students with similar MAP scores are generally ready for instruction in similar skills and topics. MAP also provides data around the typical growth for students who are in the same grade, subject, and have the same starting achievement level. This data is often used to help students set goals and understand what they need to learn to achieve their goals.
5. Can MAP tell me if my child is working at grade level?
Just as a doctor has a chart showing the most common heights of people at certain ages, NWEA has put together charts showing the median RIT scores for students at various grade levels. NWEA researchers examined the scores of millions of students to find the average scores for students in various grades. You can see a chart of these scores in the Comparative Data to Inform Instructional Decisions PDF. Please note that MAP scores are just one data point that teachers use to determine how a student is performing. Please discuss any questions that you have about your child’s performance with your child’s teacher.
6. What subjects are available with MAP?
There are MAP tests for grades 2 – 12 in reading, language usage, mathematics, and science. There are also Primary Grades tests for grades K – 2 in reading and mathematics. With these child-friendly tests for young learners, students wear headphones since many questions include audio to assist those who are still learning to read. The tests for grades K – 2 may also be referred to as MAP for Primary Grades (MPG).
7. How long is a MAP test?
Tests are not timed, and students may take as much time as they need to complete them. Most students take less than an hour to complete a MAP test. MPG tests typically last a shorter time.
8. How often will my child take MAP tests?
Most schools give MAP tests to students at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. Some schools have students take MAP tests at other times throughout the year.
9. Is MAP a standardized test? How is it different from “highstakes” or state tests?
Most state or high-stakes tests are called summative tests. They measure what students already know, based on what is expected at their grade level, and are typically given at the end of the school year as a way to measure grade-level proficiency.
MAP tests are interim tests. This means they may be given periodically during the year. MAP is based on the same standards as the summative tests so they measure similar content. Teachers receive immediate results with MAP that show what students know and what they are ready to learn. The results can be used to help personalize lessons at the appropriate level for the students.
10. What type of questions are on MAP tests? Are there sample tests?
The MAP tests include multiple choice, drag and drop, and other types of questions. You can access some short sample tests to get an idea of what MAP questions look like.
11. Are MAP tests accessible?
Yes, download the Accessibility and Accommodations FAQ for more details.
12. What information will I receive from my child’s school?
Most schools will provide your child’s Student Progress Report. This report contains information and scores from your child’s most recent and past MAP tests. A simplified sample report with definitions and explanations is included in this document to help you better understand the report. Please contact your child’s school or teacher directly for any additional information.
13. How do I learn more about my child’s test results?
Contact your child’s school or teacher with any specific questions you may have about your child’s test results. Due to privacy laws regarding student information (specifically stemming from the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA), NWEA is unable to discuss any student information, test results, or school assessment programs directly with parents, guardians, or other family members.

14. How can I help my child prepare for MAP tests?

Your child’s teacher will help with any pre-test instructions to explain the test to the students. Just like any school day, make sure your child is well-rested and fed with a well-rounded diet. Encourage them to do their best.

32 responses to “DeKalb's New Assessment Tests

  1. Legislators, administrators, superintendents, board of education, teachers – most ASSUME that children, especially young children, have the necessary skills to take online tests. Computer skills are no longer taught, just expected of children. Swiping a phone, an iPad, playing on the computer or writing a simple class or homework assignment is not TEACHING or being proficient in computer skills. Most schools rarely use computers in their daily classroom instructions, or have access during daily instruction. School libraries close at dismissal & neighborhood libraries have limited hours and are often inaccessible to parents. Teachers using SMARTboards is not giving students access and practice.
    Another HUGE concern in Georgia & DCS, is the high level of children living in poverty – many have little to no access to technology. No, a cell phone should never be considered a replacement for instructional access to technology, i.e., assignments, testing, textbooks.
    Legislators and education “reformers” keep adding and introducing more testing – taking away valuable instructional time from children. We are testing that we still have high poverty rates and losing instructional time for excessive testing. We see the results – consistent!
    Let teachers teach & children learn.
    The only ones benefitting from excessive testing are legislators, testing companies and billionaires in the business of “reforming” public education.
    DCS’s lack of technology usage and teaching in class, limited home access for thousands of our students, and the high stakes of ALL these Old & New tests appears not to be a reality check nor a concern.
    But, the rich get richer with excessive testing.
    Our teachers and children are being used.

  2. Thanks for posting this information. I see this change as a step in the right direction. It is my understanding that this test replaces the SLO tests and the ITBS. That does mean fewer tests and more teaching time. Our students have experience with STAR testing. STAR uses the same process of starting with easier questions and moving to more difficult questions as long as the test taker continues to answer correctly. I believe STAR is also gone this year. There will probably be some glitches, but I believe that we can make this happen.

  3. Barbara Fountain

    Each elementary school needs their own technology specialist to keep computers up and running. SmartBoards are continously going Down, bulb burning out, etc. when you send ticket for repair of a computer it may take months to get help. Years ago there was a trained para at each school and theirjobwas to keep the computers up and running at their school . Now there are only a few to cover numerous school. Money seems never to be spent in the school buildings to benefit the students.

  4. Barbara, absolutely!
    Filling schools with computers, printers, SMART Boards, along with all tech requirements must be maintained and updated regularly. Computer mouse (mice) break regularly, are taken apart and are not usable. Good luck on mandated tests – low scores galore!
    When Infinite Campus was implemented, teachers were not trained in time and it was a mess. Many schools’ websites are still out of date, limited teacher email addresses updated, and calendars are nonexistent. Not only are we keeping children from performing well on bad equipment, and not getting credit for their knowledge, but DCS appears to run as if we are working in an underdeveloped country.
    Technology must be accessible to teachers and students daily. Maintaining all equipment is a daily need, not via referrals & waiting for assigned techies.
    Foolish procedures, from foolish administrators!
    Get it together, children’s futures are at stake and teachers are graded on their student’s scores (another sham) with crappy tech infrastructure.

  5. Barbara Fountain

    HA Hurley were you asst. principal at Henderson H S once? Working on Master’s at Mercer also in class with Hurley…name is familiar. My granddaughter was working on Master’s and plans laid out with someone coming out to observe and of course Smartboard was out for woks on end.
    A warehouse full of technology will never be of any use to students unless it is up and running. Teachers stay frustrated since it can’t be utilized. County spends big bucks on equipment and it goes unused! They will never learn.
    Yes many times teachers have not access to websites n eded.

  6. Barbara — sorry …not an assist. principal at Henderson HS or working at Mercer.
    Any contact w/ me at GSU or as admin in several metro systems?
    Your reporting sends shivers down my spine. Teachers are asked to create something out of nothing. Probably spend hours of their own time at home using the Internet creating their lessons. DCS nixed huge textbook orders, implying that teachers create lessons via Internet access & Common Core. Well, this stupid idea left kids & parents without book access, and teachers with HOURS of reinventing content and lessons. But, the system saved thousands – mill of $$ for Golden Parachutes related to crooked Superintendents.
    Technology maintenance & access is a joke. Try to attend a teacher meeting and ask a teacher to print out grades. What, printer not working? Put in an order for a cartridge? Printer is down the hall & teachers have to leave students unattended to retrieve the document? Not yet, wait…the printer had no ink & no paper. …Get the picture? For a daily task, teachers have to jump through third-world hoops. Teachers are not treated as professionals when we don’t provide the tools.
    Our system is preparing our kids and competing with the industrialized world?
    Not rocket science! Need smart, resourceful decision makers in DCS who ASK TEACHERS what they need to teach their students. Teachers are the experts, not the multi-layers of administrators.
    Much work to be done!

  7. Barbara Fountain

    You are absolutely correct, ask those in the know. As when Deal appointed Labor Dept head to be superintendent and removing some of the “problems” on the Board and leaving others that needed to go. Until the county has been purged of all administrators involved in the corruption for the past 20 years it will NEVER be run correctly. Too heavy top level friends and family everyway you turn and sorry to say but I see no change in Green and his crew plus old ones still there.

  8. Despina Lamas

    It is my understanding that the initial assessment towards gifted identification will be during the August 15 – September 13 testing window for primary grades. Those students who score > 90% Reading Total or > 90% Math Total will take additional gifted formal evaluations. The Georgia Department of Education’s guidelines specify that any data used to establish eligibility must be current within two years. Since the MAP percentile score is valid for two years, students evaluated in fall 2016 will not be considered for gifted eligibility again until fall 2018.
    I have two questions for you:
    1. Do you know what the “additional gifted formal evaluations” are?
    2. If a child is taking this test in August/September of their Kindergarten year, are they not eligible for the gifted program again until 2nd grade?
    Please clarify when you have time.

  9. To be eligible for gifted services, students must qualify in three of the following four areas:
    1. Mental Ability: Minimum of 96% in at least one sub-test area.
    2. Achievement: Minimum of 90% on the total reading, total math, or complete composite.
    3. Creativity: Minimum of 90% on an assessment for creativity.
    4. Motivation: Grades K-12 — Minimum of 90% on an assessment for motivation
    Grades one, three, five, and seven are considered the primary testing years for gifted. This process used to begin with a mental ability assessment (CogAT) and achievement testing (ITBS). The new MAP test takes the place of both of those. The Renzulli has been traditionally given as an oral test for creativity and motivation assessment .

  10. Despina Lamas

    Thank you for the clarification. I am interpreting this to mean that even though the kindergarten students will be taking the MAP test in Aug/Sept of 2016, those scores will not be reviewed for gifted services. Those students will take the MAP test again in Aug/Sept of 2017 when they are in 1st grade and will be evaluated for gifted services then. Is that an accurate interpretation?

  11. Yes

  12. Relative to Despina Lamas’s question – my son is in kindergarten, and our school (Kingsley Elementary) informed us that the students in kindergarten WILL be reviewed for gifted services. If they don’t qualify in kindergarten, they will not be tested again until 2nd grade. (This goes against what Stan Jester said above.)
    Direct quote from our assistant principal in an email:
    According to the new guidelines ,when your child takes the MAP (in kindergarten), his results on the Fall 2016 MAP are valid for two years. If he does not qualify, they will review his results again in 2nd grade (Fall 2018) during the fall testing window.
    Some clarification on this point would be greatly appreciated by all kindergarten parents. In my opinion, except for perhaps some very exceptional cases, kindergarten is too early to begin such testing. If they are going to begin this testing in kindergarten, we need to be given the evidence to explain this change. Moreover, from what I read, MAP actually does not test for cognitive ability or “giftedness” in any way, so why was the decision made to make this test the first step in gifted eligibility?

  13. DeKalb Schools 2016-2017 Testing Calendar
    At the bottom of the testing calendar you’ll see that every student K-10 will be taking the MAP test. Historically, only grades 1,3, and 5 took CogAT and ITBS which were used for gifted identification. NWEA MAP tests are taking the place of ITBS, CogAT and STAR. All students K-10 will be taking the MAP test whether it’s used for gifted identification or not. Ask your teacher and principal when the test will be used for gifted identification. It could be as early Kindergarten now.
    Gifted identification is done every two years. If they start in Kindergarten, the next cycle of identification wouldn’t be until 2nd grade even though they take the test in 1st grade.
    I spoke at some length at the July 11 board meeting with Mr. Knox Phillips, Director, Research, Assessment, and Grants, Division of Curriculum & Instruction. I questioned him about replacing ITBS, CogAT and STAR with these NWEA MAP tests.
    He and the administration assured me this new MAP assessment effectively replaced legacy assessment systems within the school district: Renaissance’s STAR Early Literacy, STAR Reading and STAR Math; Iowa Tests of Basic Skills; and components of the the Cognitive Abilities Test.
    I grew up taking the ITBS. ITBS has been around for a hundred years. That being said, the MAP test has been around for decades and seems to be the more prominent assessment today. I haven’t looked into its effectiveness as a cognitive abilities test. If you contact your teacher, principal or Knox Phillips, they should be able to answer your questions.

  14. Despina Lamas

    Stan, I am just a parent and have no professional background in education or testing services. Having said that, common sense is making me raise my eyebrow on how these “standardized” tests are being administered. Some students are taking the tests in the morning when they are fresh. Some kids in the same grade are taking the tests in the late afternoon when they are more tired. students are taking the tests on all different days. Some kids are more rested on a Monday or Tuesday while others are taking the tests on the Thursday or Friday where they are more tired from the week. At my particular school, parents were just given the month long testing window as a timeframe. No notification on when their child is testing has been given. Because of these variables, I’m having a hard time understanding how this test can be standardized. Can you shed some light on this?

  15. Every principal is given a time frame the students have to take the assessment. You should speak with your principal or school council about the schedule they come up with.
    Are you suggesting that everybody across the county take the assessment on the exact same day and at the exact same time? Obviously that would be ideal, but not a reality.

  16. Despina Lamas

    I would think the norm would be for all students at a school or per grade to take assessments at the same time. That way all outside factors are the same for all students in that grade at that particular school. But like I said before, I’m just a parent. I have no formal educational background.

  17. Why?

  18. Despina Lamas

    Well, have you ever been around a kindergartener at 8:30am versus 12:45pm? Their mood, focus and attention is quite different. This may not be the case for the older grades. But in this testing scenario kindergarteners and 5th graders are being evaluated for Discovery with the same standardized test.

  19. Despina Lamas

    The concern I’m hearing from parents is mostly in the younger grades, especially kindergarten. The parents feel that Discovery testing in kindergarten, the first month of kindergarten, is too soon. These kids don’t know how to work computers or even how to left click a mouse. And then because they have taken a standardized test in kindergarten they cannot be looked at again for Discovery until second grade.
    In my opinion, it would be nice if the children could be evaluated in kindergarten for Discovery but then be eligible in first grade for Discovery again. After that, the 2 year testing restriction can start.

  20. I completely agree that K is too early to test for giftedness- we weren’t even informed of these changes ahead of time. Why is K suddenly an appropriate grade to judge kids for gifted eligibility. It in effect takes away a chance at eligibility for kids who aren’t reading yet in week 2 of kindergarten. They then only can qualify in 2nd or 4th, whereas it used to be 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Stan, I have asked my schools administration about this, and they do not have any answers. That’s why I turned to you!

  21. Despina Lamas

    I agree with Mr. Sned. Information regarding testing was sent to parents the week before testing began. There has been no time to digest the information. And it seems that people within DCSD didn’t all have the same answers.
    With respect, Stan, even you didn’t know that kindergarteners were being evaluated for testing based on your comments on this thread dated August 15/16. I understand that we all need to go to our individual principals for clarification, but they are merely executing a plan given to them by the Dekalb County School District. The County has indicated that Discovery testing will happen in Kindergarten and then not again until 2nd grade. Since you are my School Board Representative, I am providing you with the feedback that many of your constituents disagree with this plan. There was no time to discuss this before the testing window started because we did not know about the testing until August 13th.
    At this point, it would be nice to see some consideration to take place regarding kindergarteners. A solution would be to allow Discovery evaluation to take place in both kindergarten and first grade. Then the 2 year restriction can apply.

  22. You are raising valid points – testing young children on the computer is absurd, developmentally inappropriate, and the results are invalid. We have been evaluating young children for years for all types of abilities, needs and strengths. However, this is the age of assembly line-type labeling where it does not matter if children have computer skills, or are we testing children during the optimum time of day, limit distractions, validity -reliability of testing…none of that matters. The fact that we often get results proving exactly that young kids have limited computer skills, have never been tested on a computer, tested while sleepy or hungry, tested in noisy environments, etc. School systems used to respect How we Test. Now, we have kids plugged into computers just to get the scores and move on.
    I do not blame DCS for such malpractice. This is happening all over the country, because testing, scores, selection of children, technology, ever increasing and fast testing of content, is our very lucrative industry and our children are tested more than ever. Gifted eligibility has been done for years, with parent and teacher input. MAPS, along with many other tests that children take, results show that they are spending hours of lost-instructional-time.
    Parents, if you have a bright young child, and the testing in school is performed under inappropriate conditions, you may look into having your child privately tested and contact the gifted coordinator of the system for the eligibility process. Same goes for children who may exhibit characteristics of a disability. Testing children ethically is important and not an assembly line process.

  23. Despina Lamas

    This article points to why testing should be taking place at the same time for the students in the same grade.
    The research team described in the article found that for every hour later a test was held, scores declined by 0.9 percent – an amount equivalent to the effect of missing 10 days of school.
    So theoretically, if a 1st grader takes the MAP test at 8:30am, that child has an advantage of about 3.6 percentage points over the 1st grade student who takes the test at 12:30pm. In this environment, this is not a “standardized” test.
    Having said that, MAP evaluations for each child makes sense. You can track how they are progressing from the beginning, middle to the end of the year. However, this computer based test raises red flags about testing for gifted services, in my opinion.

  24. I’m suspicious of the effectiveness of standardized testing young elementary school children for gifted identification. For many, this is their first time on a computer and sitting still for an hour to focus on a test. I imagine their results are a reflection of maturity and patience more than anything else.
    We were discussing having all students take the test simultaneously, and I don’t believe that is a viable option. When is the optimal time of day to take the test is a different topic and I would defer to the studies.
    Gifted Identification – My current understanding, and I will need to get Knox Phillips to weigh in on this, is MAP is the first phase. Students who score > 90% RT (Reading Total) or > 90% MT (Math Total) on the nationally norm-referenced assessment (MAP) will take the cognitive abilities (CogAT) test. There is also a creative and motivation assessment.

  25. Despina Lamas

    Stan, yes you are correct. I just hung up the phone with the DCSD gifted department. If a child receives a 90% or higher in total math or total reading in MAP, then will be evaluated for further testing. “Further testing” consists of Cogat and renzulli (sp?) for creativity and motivation.
    They also told me that the Division of Curriculum and Instruction released a “2016-2017 Gifted Identification Flow Chart”, that may explain some of our questions. Do you have a copy of it by chance? I did not receive one.
    Also, to HA Hurley, I asked if a child can be tested by a third party. Outside evaluations will not be eligible to determine gifted eligibility through the DCSD. The testing must be administered through the district.

  26. Despina,
    Our assistant principal did send me that flow chart last week. I’ll try to email it to Stan Jester so perhaps he can post it here for you and other parents to see. I wasn’t sure if it was finalized or not, but since the gifted department mentioned it to you, I’m guessing that it’s okay to post it.
    Did DCSS comment on the issue of testing in kindergarten and the eligibility issue? I think – once the dust settles – that parents will be able to make the argument that this year’s kindergarteners should have the right to be tested again in 1st grade since we were given basically no notice of these changes before testing began last week. And also because giving kindergarteners a computerized standardized test the first month of kindergarten is just stupid and pointless.

  27. Knox Phillips, DeKalb Schools Director of Research, Assessments, and Grants

    sent via email
    MAP does not evaluate cognitive abilities. Students who meet the criteria via MAP assessments for norm-reference performance will be individually assessed for cognitive abilities via the CogAT assessment with parent contact and consent – CogAT and Renzulli are components of the Gifted Formal Assessments illustrated in the flow chart.

  28. Christine D.

    Just received my 3rd grade daughter’s MAP results today. She is already in Discovery so eligibility isn’t a concern of ours… however, although she would have qualified for further gifted eligibilty testing with this year’s MAP math results, her reading score was FAR lower than expected (results show LOWER lexile than last year’s 1st semester STAR lexile). Reading is arguably her strongest subject (has been in “high” reading group K-2, and she has been directed by this year’s teacher to read above class average library books). Has anyone else experienced scoring anomalies?

  29. Hi Christine. Yes, I have read reports online from other states complaining of unexpected and inconsistent MAP results. I have not received scores back from either of my children (3rd grade and 7th grade). Also, just in case you didn’t know, the primary purpose of the MAP scores in Dekalb county is to evaluate teachers, not to assess your child. The schools and the teachers must show improvement, so it is in their best interest to manipulate the scores to reflect improvement throughout the year. Parents, you have the right to refuse testing for your child.

  30. Anna: I doubt it will make a difference, but I emailed Knox Phillips (Assessments) and Connie Franklin (Magnets) at county today. I expressed my concern that our test results had anomalies, as compared to my child’s COGAT, Stanford, ITBS, STAR results for years prior to MAP. I suggested they consider allowing WINTER 2017 scores count toward magnet and gifted eligibility during this initial year of MAP testing to give our kids the benefit of the doubt (in terms of result validity). I also wanted my situation documented with county higher ups.

  31. Today we received a Gifted Formal Assessments, can anyone elaborate on CogAT and Renzulli test for gifted program.

  32. I personally disagree with not wanting kindergarteners tested for gifted. My son has been reading and has been way ahead in math for years, and I was quite unhappy with the fact that he was spending time in a classroom with other children who barely knew their alphabet all in the name of him being 5 years old. I personally pushed for him to received individualized instruction, and based upon his MAP scores he is now being pulled for ELA and Math. The only thing the further evaluation (COGAT) will be used for is to determine if he is eligible for 1st grade Science. The same unfairness that goes for expecting a child with a learning disability to function in a gen ed class can be compared to a gifted child being held behind because there aren’t enough of them to warrant hiring gifted teachers. The only reason children used to have to wait until 3rd grade is because it was believed that children would all reach the same level by a certain age. Completely untrue!!! This is not to say that all gifted children are avid test takers, but I am inclined to believe that identification has to begin somewhere.