By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 23, 2014 at 10:15 AM

The push back against testing in schools is all over the news lately, with protests across the country by parents and educators who believe schools are spending way too much time not only testing, but prepping for tests, to the exclusion of all subjects other than the few that are tested.

Among the tests kids take at MPS are three rounds of computerized MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing, which is given soon after the school year begins to benchmark kids' abilities and again in winter and spring to map progress.

Starting at third grade (through eighth, and then again in 10th), there is the state test, which until this year has been the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations). That will be replaced next year with online Smarter Balanced Testing. These are the tests the Feds look at to rate what it deems to be progress.

This year, nearly all second graders in the district took a Cognitive Abilities Test, dubbed CogAT, that was mandated to ensure that kids at the highest levels are receiving a sufficiently challenging education.

Here is what an MPS Power Point says of the CogAT:

CogAT is a norm referenced assessment that measures "learned reasoning abilities"

  • Verbal Battery: assesses ability to use search, retrieval and comparison processes
  • Quantitative Battery: assesses ability to reason about patterns and relationships
  • Non Verbal Battery: assesses ability to reason with novel questions that use spatial and figural content

Let's be honest, it's basically an IQ test, even if it's not called that or scored the same way.

Just under 6,000 kids at 109 of MPS' 110 elementary schools took part in the testing (103 using paper and pencil and six online). I wonder not only which school was exempted – and why – but if kids in other gifted and talented programs, like the one at Victory School, for example, were tested.

And why kids at schools like the seven Montessoris, which already differentiate for all kids, had to take it is unclear.

The district got the results of the tests on Feb. 14, and schools got them a couple weeks ago, and are sharing them with families. Over spring break, some parents – the ones whose kids scored highest – began to get letters at home from Central Services with their kids' results.

The results, by the way, showed that 53 MPS second graders qualify for Mensa. Of those kids, 28.3 percent have an IEP and/or qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Overall, 52.3 percent of kids testing in the "average" range, 27.4 in the "below average" stanines and 13 percent were "above average."

According to a district Power Point last month, "principals, APs and instructional coaches were trained on how to read their CogAT data and plan for GT interventions (and) instructional coaches or principals will hold second and third grade level meetings to discuss data and plan educational opportunities for GT students by mid-March."

Next year, the students identified as gifted and talented by the test, as well as by MAP scores and teacher observations, "will be flagged in the new student identification system" for the upcoming school year and, apparently, in subsequent grades.

I'm curious, what are your thoughts on the CogAT testing? Do you think it will serve its intended purpose?

Is that purpose worth adding another test to the regimen of three MAP tests, WKCE, etc.?

Is the CogAT measuring what is already sufficiently measured via MAP tests?

Has your school sent home results yet? How were the scores communicated?

Has there been push back from families and school staff?

Should kids know the results? Will kids discuss their results among themselves? (Of course they will. On MAP testing days, the kids come home knowing not only their own results but the results of all their friends, regardless of whether or not they understand the scoring system.)

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Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.