A couple of years ago, the Superintendent of the Norwalk, Connecticut, public school district – Dr. Steven Adamowski – challenged his team to make sure their assessment system effectively supported efforts to “raise the bar and close the gaps” for all students. A subsequent audit of their assessment system found far too many assessments – close to 30 – were not providing teachers and school leaders with the quality data necessary to inform decision-making. They found they needed a better way to measure student progress and growth.
Their solution needed to accomplish three things: enable the district to cut down on the number of different assessments its schools were administering; preserve instructional time; and provide consistent measures that could be used to drive decision-making at both the school and district levels.
Norwalk began restructuring its assessment system by eliminating assessments that did not align with the district’s strategic priorities—or the needs of teachers, school leaders, parents, and community members. The district prioritized assessments that 1) advanced its core goals of closing achievement gaps and 2) promoted educational equity, especially for students who were in more than one high-needs group.
Norwalk conducted extensive research on assessments that would meet the district’s requirements for usability, high-quality data, and assessment rigor—as well as provide predictive outcomes for state standardized tests. The MAP® Growth™ interim assessment was Norwalk’s top choice.
As Dr. Michael Conner, Chief Academic Officer, states:
We wanted to improve the instructional time in the classroom and decrease the number of assessments that we were administering. But, it was critical to implement a true assessment system that gives us quality information for school leaders, as well as for teachers. Choosing MAP Growth was a win-win situation… from a teacher’s standpoint and from an administrator’s standpoint. We decreased the number of assessments within the district, but we also have this assessment system that gives us the quality information that we need.
The results have been remarkable. In the year Norwalk piloted MAP Growth, the district eliminated 11 assessments that were not serving the district’s needs. In year two, Norwalk eliminated another 13 assessments, representing nearly an 80 percent decrease overall in the number of assessments the district requires.
In addition to using professional learning to help schools improve assessment practices, the district has also created school-level leadership teams to spearhead conversations about assessment literacy and using data to inform differentiated instruction. Norwalk emphasizes continuity among schools, to avoid widespread variance wherein one school is implementing one practice and another school is implementing a different practice.
This coherence between schools also facilitates collaboration. Teachers and leaders now routinely reference MAP Growth data, including RIT scores and national norms. They also use the predictive growth data in the context of the Smarter Balanced test, as well as other insights available to them through MAP reporting. The utility of the information that MAP Growth provides for multiple stakeholder groups has been a significant source of value for Norwalk.
For more detail on Norwalk’s use of MAP Growth, check out the case study.