Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Measuring a student’s progress

MAP testing is in full swing at Mt. Pleasant Community School District
Dec 05, 2017

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


Teachers in the Mt. Pleasant Community School District are reminding students they need a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast as students are in the midst of MAP testing. But what exactly is MAP testing and how does it inform what and how a student is taught?

Katie Gavin, director of instruction at Mt. Pleasant, says there are several tests that are administered to students throughout the year. The most notable being the Iowa Assessment and MAP, which stands for Measures of Academic Progress.

Unlike the Iowa Assessment, which is taken once at the end of each academic year, MAP testing is done three times a year. “It’s kind of like an autopsy verses continual beneficial health,” Gavin says comparing the two tests. “The best part of MAP is I can give it in the fall and when I give it again in the winter, I should be able to see that students have learned.”

Having that comparative data is crucial for teachers, Gavin says.


Results right away

Mt. Pleasant has been doing MAP testing for several years, but this is the first year the district has been web-based. Before, the district’s MAP tests were server based, which Gavin says was fairly cumbersome. “We weren’t getting updates and we had a huge delay of when we could get data.”

Gavin said results of tests were not available until after the last day of testing. With the new system, teachers can see individual student data almost as soon as the student finishes an assessment. “When the student is finished with the assessment it will give them the score. In 24 hours, the teacher will be able to look at (the data).”

Gavin says since the district switched to the web-based testing she’s already seen a difference in how teachers consume the data and refocus their instruction. Instead of revisiting a subject or skill six-months down the line, teachers can touch on a subject the next day based on test results. “They can see and celebrate the growth the student has had or they can adjust and go back (to a topic) and go over it with the kids before they move on,” she said. “That immediacy plays an important piece for them to be the best they can be for each kid.”

MAP, which is a national test based on Common Core, also provides teachers with instruction content ideas. “If you have a group of students that are within this range, (it tells you) this is what they’re ready for in the next set of instruction.” Gavin said these suggestions are great when it comes to helping a teacher form small groups within a classroom.

“After that last day of testing I could come back and say when I’m teaching this concept, this is the group of kids and how I want to pair them,” said Gavin, who noted it’s not always best to pair children at the same skill level together. “If I want to put a lower (scoring) band with a medium band and medium band with a high band, I have a lot better interaction,” said Gavin. “Sometimes if I place a lower band with a higher band, there’s too much of a gap and that really creates some frustration for the student.”

“When we’re pairing, we have this information on what they’re really ready for and when we talk about collaboration with students, especially around literacy and writing, you have some strong data to say let’s look at grouping students this way.”


Adaptive testing

The web-based MAP testing isn’t one size fits all, Gavin says. Instead, MAP is an adaptive test. “The test isn’t the same for every kid,” said Gavin. “The test will start out relatively easy for the student and build up to a frustration level.”

That means each student’s test, no matter the subject matter, will begin at the same level of ease. As students answer correctly, the test will become gradually harder until the student hits a “frustration level” or questions become too difficult. “Say you had a third-grader who was doing extensive division and multiplication. It will ask them questions until they start missing,” said Gavin. “Once they start missing questions, then (the test) gets you’ve hit a frustration level and can score a norm based on the data it’s collected.”

Gavin says even as questions become harder, the content still is grade appropriate. “It pushes them to a certain point and it tells us how far above ‘X’ or how far below ‘X’ they are,” said Gavin.

Gavin says this is another difference between MAP and the Iowa Assessment. “The Iowa Assessment every student takes every question the same in this grade level.”

NWEA, the company that produces the MAP test, is also working on Spanish editions of the test. The district currently has a Spanish math edition, but Gavin is excited to expand the mulit-lingual test in other subject areas. This way, she says, the language barriers won’t be the hindrance to knowing what concepts students grasp.

“You always wonder, if they aren’t proficient in reading or speaking English, am I really getting the best ticket to what they know or are able to do,” she said.



Students are currently in the second round of testing for MAP. Students are tested in the fall, winter and spring. Winter testing began on Tuesday, Nov. 28 and will conclude on Friday, Dec. 15.

“We do (the testing) in windows because it matters how many weeks you’ve had learning,” she said.

All students, from kindergarten to 11th grade, take the MAP test. And besides making sure each student has had the same amount of instruction time, the district plans for two-and-a-half to three weeks of testing time so each student has a device to take the test.

The test can be taken on either a desktop, laptop or iPad device. “We only have, especially at the elementary, so many devices. We have to have that window of two-and-a-half to three weeks because all kids, Kindergarten through 11th grade are taking this and we have to have the device in their hands,” said Gavin.

“Not only that, we don’t want kids in the high school going to English and testing and then to math and testing. We want to spread it out,” she explains.

District and building administrators work together to set out a testing schedule for each grade and buildings.

As for how long each subject matter takes for testing, Gavin says there are guidelines for the test, but they are essentially untimed tests. “Most students are going to finish the test in their class period, but there are some kids that will need some more time.”

Gavin says that’s one of the great things about taking the test on the devices, it has an updated platform, which allows the test to be paused. “Say if (the student) got sick or if the fire alarm goes off, we can pause (the test) and pick it back up where they left it,” she said.


Successful testing

When it comes to making sure students are prepared for assessments, Gavin said sleep is important. “If at all possible, make sure (the kids) are getting enough sleep. Basketball just started so I’m a little worried about some of our athletes,” Gavin admitted.

Gavin also says students should be well hydrated and if there’s time for an extra snack before school, by all means. “We just want to make sure they’re not thinking about some of those basic needs,” she said.

Gavin says encouragement is also important. “When you’re dropping them off either at the bus or the building, just saying ‘good luck today, I can’t wait to hear how you feel about it.’ That little encouragement that it’s important and that you’re paying attention to it matters to them.”

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