This week I've had the good fortune of speaking closely with many of the families about the NWEA testing reports sent home a few days ago. I thought I might provide a brief summary of those conversations.
What is the NWEA test?
NWEA, or MAP testing
, is a standardized, well-respected measure of students current performance in three areas we selected: Reading, language usage (grammar) and mathematics. NWEA is a norm-referenced assessment, which means hundreds of thousands of students take it an scores are peers of the same grade-level. NWEA is also adaptive, meaning that as the students respond correctly, questions get harder. The test is timed and test-taking times are reported as are the scores in each of six sections of each of the three areas.
What can parents learn from the NWEA data?
Parents can learn about students' comprehension of specific content. The Family Report I sent home shows parents the measureable growth their child has made over the past year (4 data-points). Parents can observe the growth percentiles (compared to peers) and patterns of growth, for example, during the winter months or spring-to-summer.
How should parents think about growth?
Parents should be
aware of growth. Parents should note whether growth is between the 25th to 75th percentile. If it is not, we've probably already had conversations this week as growth can be affected by many factors. It is critical to take assertive steps if growth over time is not observed, so that's what I'm doing with my teachers and why I'm partnering with you by spending time talking about the data and scheduled adjustments I will make.
What can teachers learn from the data?
From this assessment, teachers can tell a great deal about students' comprehension of specific content. The data can reveal whether it took the student 20 minutes to take the assessment or 56 minutes. That matters. Teachers can learn whether there is one area of significant weakness or strength
or if skills and knowledge appear consistent. Teachers can also assure that they are providing instruction of certain skills when they notice patterns across a class performance. They can provide supplemental instruction or enrichment when necessary, and pivot their lessons. They can provide books of various complexity or type if they see a student needs additional exercise in that type.
What can school leaders learn from the data?
As you may have guessed, I am a data nerd. I see the data as part of the students' overall profiles of leaning but there are different reasons I use this data. It tells a story about each child. When paired with knowledge of students' disposition, level of confidence in academic settings, number of absences, bi-linguistic abilities, ADD or ADHD, learning disabilities, and a number of other factors, we know more about the students in our care.
School-wide data can help school leaders like me determine whether our curriculum truly addresses some of the necessary academic skills and whether it is accessible to the students. As I interpret 7th and 8th grade data, I look for trends and patterns across and within the information. This guides some of the decisions I will make with regard to curriculum, instruction, assessment and resources I use and those I need to access.
Why don't grades and these NWEA scores match?
There are several reasons this situation could exist. Remember that in a classroom, students receive credit for engaging in class discussions, classwork, homework, projects, etc. For many students, this allows them to shine in ways impossible to observe on a standardized assessment. Additionally, this is a timed test and many students experience test-anxiety which can result in seemingly disparaging scores. In addition, our teachers are providing close, supportive instruction and students in our classes and this test is facilitated with a proctoring approach. Curriculum alignments and sequence of instruction may also affect performance at certain times of the year.
Can we compare performance of students from different elementary schools?
Absolutely not. I
would not do it even though I could. There are
far too many variables
that influence students' growth to assert that the elementary school is a singular factor of cause and effect. In addition, we are looking into the windsheild - not the rearview. I now know about every single one of our students' performance and can position resources wisely, revise or purchase curricular resources, adjust scheduling, etc.
The Diocese of Mancester, our school leaders and teachers are invested in learning about the overall performance of our students AND the individual growth of each child so that we can be responsive. The beauty of the education you are providing your child in our Catholic schools is that we have small classes, committed teachers and bright school leaders who are using every tool we have to provide high quality education.
We know this: students are now being monitored more closely than they ever have. We are able to observe ability, needs and growth in global and individual ways.