MCSD Whiteboard: State testing an opportunity to learn
What’s the value of a test?
In school, as in life, though it might seem like a test is what happens after learning opportunities have been exhausted, in truth, tests are important chances for learning to occur, too.
Students of Moffat County School District have been participating early this school year in their first of several rounds of testing. This time of year, it’s NWEA MAP testing. MAP stands for Measures of Academic Progress, and it’s intended for exactly that purpose.
“MAPs testing allows us to get a pretty accurate picture of where kids are currently performing in math, reading and science,” said Bre Ford, Assessment Coordinator for Moffat County School District.
“It allows us to see where students are,” Ford said. “We test in the winter and springtime as well, so it allows us to see a child’s growth over the years.”
In comparison to CMAS testing — the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, which compare districts in the state against one another to determine progress and resource needs statewide — MAPs is more of an in-district growth measure.
CMAS is administered toward the end of a school year and is standardized by grade level. That means every student in a given grade answers the exact same questions. In contrast, MAPs are progressive and individualized, and are more tailored toward informing adjustments during the school year.
“MAPs questions can get progressively harder to match a student’s level,” Ford said. “Typically, most math and reading tests have around 43 questions, and it could be plus or minus depending on the student.”
As a student answers questions on a MAPs test, the program adapts the difficulty of the questions in real time, elevating the challenge of the test until it finds the student’s knowledge level, at which point it levels off. One fifth grader might be answering reading questions at a seventh-grade level, while one of her classmates is up to ninth-grade level questions, and the other is leveled off at grade level.
“MAPs is a great data point to check in with a kid,” Ford said. “It looks at where we might need some intervention, as well as gifted and talented opportunities. Depending on the school and the grade level, it can be used to determine what classes or groups you’re in.”
MAPs, for which there is no study guide and relatively little specific preparation, is only one data point used for assessing a student’s learning progress — and, critically, the district’s teaching. DIBELS testing is another, as well as regular unit tests, classwork and homework and general teacher observation. Altogether, these tools form a useful picture of how successfully a teacher is teaching and how successfully a student is understanding the material being taught.
Students see their score immediately upon finishing their test. Teachers and administration have more detailed reports delivered overnight.
“It’s very quick, real-time usable data,” Ford said.
From a district perspective, MAPs and other state tests are a valuable tool for assessing programming and considering adjustments to approach.
“How are we teaching our kids,” said superintendent Jill Hafey. “I look at testing from the perspective of having been a teacher as well as having been a principal. Have I prepared my students — as a teacher — and am I preparing them to match what other kids in the United States are being exposed to? As a principal, have I prepared my teachers on what they need to be doing to teach their kids? Are we measuring up? And now as superintendent, district-wide are we hitting the most important standards, our priority standards? Do my principals have what they need to roll this out? Do we have it all in place to serve our kids? It’s a checkpoint.”
To Hafey, there’s value in testing kids even beyond the data-based feedback it provides her educators.
“I think it teaches our kids some basic life skills of how to work under pressure,” Hafey said. “Later in life, they’ll be asked to do tests. Nursing tests, bar exams — there’s always tests in life. I think we owe it to our kids to give them practice experiencing that. Talk to them: ‘What happens when you start running out of time? If you come to a question that blows you out of the water, what do you do?’ These are test questions but also life situations. What happens if you don’t know what to do? How do you take a breath and push forward? I think testing builds capacity as a human being to function in the real world.”
School Snapshot: Ridgeview Elementary
MCSD Whiteboard asked each of the district’s principals to provide some information and thoughts about their school as the new year begins. First up: Ridgeview Elementary and principal Ryan Frink.
New staff: Paula Duzik, counselor (transferred to Ridgeview after 28 years at MCHS); Jenni Giedd (from paraprofessional to English Language Learners teacher); Britni Alexander (from paraprofessional to Special Education teacher).
Staff stats: Forty-seven total staff (classified and certified) averaging 12 years experience in education total and 11 years experience in Moffat County schools specifically.
Moffat County graduates on staff: Of 47 staff members, 18 graduated from MCHS
New and exciting at Ridgeview: Morning meetings are a schoolwide classroom management practice used to address students’ social-emotional learning needs on a daily basis. Every morning, teachers gather their students in a circle (about 15-30 minutes) to interact with one another and kick off the day. At the end of the day, WIN time is a time for teachers to personalize instruction to further meet the unique needs of every learning in every classroom. The period is for enrichment, support, reinforcement and/or goal setting and reflecting.
What Principal Frink loves about his school: We have come together as a collective body, putting our selfish desires aside to ensure we are all providing the very best for our kids.
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