Here at NWEA, we’re very excited about our newest assessment tool, Skills Navigator. With its focus on foundational skills, its engaging avatars and themes that let students create a learning environment that reflects their interests, and its tie-in to curated Open Education Resources through our partnership with Knovation, we think it will be a practical and effective way for teachers to help students achieve amazing growth. And supporting growth is the heart of our mission.
Highlighting Foundational Skills
Skills Navigator is designed to help teachers make assessment work in the classroom as they adapt to new, more rigorous standards. Those standards rely on student understanding of multiple skills that roll up into the larger learning objectives. Yet we heard from educators around the country that their students often had critical gaps in their skill base that seemed to prevent them from unlocking success under the new standards. Could we help them locate those gaps, and then provide instructional resources that could help students attain mastery?
To meet these important needs, our researchers designed an innovative Skills Framework that articulates more than 1,000 foundational skills in math and reading comprehension, vocabulary, and language usage. Rather than only identifying broader sets of standard-level achievement markers – something that MAP does extremely well – the skills framework allows teachers to see which specific skills are required by a given standard and how those skills apply across standards.
This means that teachers can get a much more detailed picture of their students’ skill development than they can with other assessments, allowing them to:
- Identify the key skills that lead to standards mastery;
- Monitor progress toward mastery; and
- Address specific learning needs, in terms of both the foundational skills and standards.
Measuring with Instruction in Mind
To measure the skills specified in the framework, teachers can select from two different types of tools, depending on their needs. Skills Locators take about 15 minutes to complete, and identify student understanding of key skills that contribute to college and career readiness. These adaptive assessments help teachers to establish baselines for skills development and identify exactly which skills each student needs to work on improving.
Using these baselines as a starting place, Skills Navigator’s fixed-form Mastery Checks take about 5 minutes to finish, and help teachers monitor progress for each specific skill.
These targeted checks allow teachers to look at individual skills to see whether students have achieved proficiency or made progress towards it. This ability to understand student learning at a granular level enables teachers to focus specific instructional supports on areas where they are needed most.
We are pretty excited about the skills framework – as well as the many features that simplify reporting and next steps for teachers.