Serving in the Office of Information Services for Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I have a unique opportunity to observe the impact of assessment on a large and complex school system. GRPS serves approximately 17,000 students in over 40 sites. We have traditional sites and theme-based sites, such as a zoo school and a museum school. We offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) program for middle and high school students and soon we’ll be opening a new elementary fine arts themed IB program. We have high school Centers of Innovation that provide career-based programs for health, science, business, construction and engineering. Our student population is ethnically diverse, and approximately 85% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
GRPS started using Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®), in the fall of 2009. Initially it was focused on identifying each student’s instructional level for differentiation, flexible grouping, giving feedback, and using Descartes. MAP has evolved over the years and so too has our use of it. In 2012, we adopted Web-Based MAP and started using the Conditional Growth Index and leveraged the ACT® Linking Study.
In GRPS, assessment integrity is critical. We focus on maintaining fair and consistent test practices for all students, classrooms and schools. We also strive for a testing environment that allows each student to put forth his or her full potential and to demonstrate his or her best work.
Unlike other assessments, MAP is student-centric and adapts to each child’s instructional level. Its equal interval scale accurately reports the achievement level of each student. We do not use it for external accountability and it’s not a test prep program for a college entrance exam. Rather, it focuses on accurately reflecting each student’s ability level so teachers can differentiate instruction to help accelerate student learning.
MAP data helps to inform course placement, contribute to the admission process for selective programs, increase student engagement and improve student learning and achievement. To learn more check out the series of videos that Northwest Evaluation Association™ (NWEA™) developed on how MAP makes a difference.
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