Many parents this week got the Minnesota Assessment test results, which unfortunately do not assess how Minnesotan they are. Your child had a score for 630 for Viking Fan-Quotient, seasonally adjusted for how much they stink at present; the median score is 619. It would be interesting, but confounding and inevitably meaningless.
Which brings us to the actual letter itself. After scanning for the verdicts and sighing with relief, I was drawn to all the numbers the state has assigned my child.
Under daughter's name are a series of numbers. There's something called the "Local Use" number, which I assume is the student ID, but may also be used if they want to use her, locally.
The next number is called "MARSS#." It is 13 digits long. It's the same as the Local Use number, but it has six zeros and a 1, so they're future-proofed until the day the number of students being tracked tops 999 million.
I googled MARSS and to my horror came up with the "Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System." This sounds like a drone!
You want to get on the phone: Excuse me, are you tracking my child with a drone? Because if you are, I want to know who gave you authority, what you do with the information, what sort of target-acquisition package you have on the vehicle, and whether she did come straight home like she said instead of stopping at Starbucks. No, I will not hold. I want answers. (I could smell the pumpkin spice latte.)
Good thing I didn't jump the gun. It's the "Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System." If I understand the Department of Education's website, MARSS is helpful for getting Average Daily Membership (ADM) which is posted to the Minnesota Funding Reports (MFR) Web page, which ties into the Overall Membership Group (OMG) and the Length of Learning (LOL) databases, all of which are run by the Department of Facilitating Plain and Clear Bureaucratic Acronyms (DFPCBA, pronounced "Diffupcaba.")
But wait! There's more. There's the "Math UIN." Note that I didn't say UIN#. So the "N" must mean number, right? But if you don't know that, you'd say "here's my kid's UIN number," and sound as redundant as someone who says "here's my PIN number," which you shouldn't; why are you telling that to anyone? Seriously, keep it to yourself.
Anyway, searching on the DOE's website yielded a document called "POSTTEST EDIT 2012-2013," which gives you a glimpse of the hellish coding teachers are required to do.
The introduction notes that the Test WES is best used by "the District Assessment Coordinator (DAC), the MARSS Coordinator, and the Student Identity Validation System Coordinator." You can only imagine the nightmare before Student Identity Validation Systems were coordinated.
Let's just assume UIN means "Universal Identification Number" instead of "Unteachable Irritating Ninny," and go on. The entire point of the document is to show how daughter did on the MCA-III. That's the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, which determine how they perform on the Minnesota Academic Standards. The scale goes for 701 to 799; apparently you get 700 points for walking through the door.
Her progress score was 2677. I have no idea what that means.
But there's a helpful description: "The charts on the far right column show a circle that represents your child's scale score and a tolerance band that reflects the precision of that score. If the tolerance bands for strands overlap, your child's performance on those strands should not be considered as meaningfully different."
Someone — or, more likely, a committee — was tasked with explaining scores to the general public. Someone in the meeting said, "We should probably clarify the accuracy of overlapping tolerance bands on performance strands." Heads nodded: Good idea.
It all makes sense if you read it slowly, perhaps with your tongue stuck out the side to indicate mental effort, but it speaks of a massive project — student achievement testing — whose particulars are presented as if we're all part of the organization, and understand the jargon, the objectives, the methodology.
How about this instead: A, B, C, D. And not 50 shades of each.
Everyone knows what letter grades mean. But there's not a parent around who has gone up to his kid's room, shaken a letter that just arrived from the school and said, "Explain how you got a 620 in Math."
A = great. B = pretty good, let's make that an A. C = my precious snowflake may not be a rocket scientist after all. D = grounded.
Tell your kid she got 760, and she'll ask: Is that good?
Well, you got a 759 last year. Better study 1/50th harder.