At first glance, the Bulloch County school district in Georgia might seem a difficult place to realize student achievement. With fifteen schools, including nine elementary schools (pre-K – 5 or K – 5), four middle schools (6 – 8), and three high schools, seventeen percent of their students live at or below the poverty line, and 58% receive free or reduced-price lunch. All elementary and middle schools in the district have Title I status. The student population has grown in recent years, while funding has been reduced, and yet the district is consistently high-achieving.
One of the keys to this high-achievement is better informed instruction, and this is made possible, in part, from the data gleaned from the MAP® assessment. The first step in instituting MAP in Bulloch County was for school leaders to help their faculty appreciate that it was a tool to help them better understand student needs, and a means to improve their instruction. At Brooklet Elementary School, principal Marlin Baker introduced MAP with ongoing small group sessions and saw firsthand the staff’s skills grow with the rich data analysis now available to them. As Marlin puts it:
“Having them bring data to these meetings and discuss it, and being able to access their students’ data, see the changes, and identify the needs—that’s been very powerful. That data analysis piece has been critical and enlightening for teachers, and it’s extremely important. And it’s been very powerful in the classroom. One of the strongest points of MAP is the ability to inform instruction. I don’t know of another instrument that is as detailed in providing relevant information for teachers moving forward as MAP has been for us.”
MAP can also help schools and districts evaluate programs. For Bulloch County Schools, with a tightened budget and growing student population, MAP data has helped assess the impact of specific programs. A summer school project conducted with 66 of their lowest-performing students led to enormous gains, as evidenced by MAP math scores, with half of the participants gaining a full year’s equivalent in achievement in math. Because MAP scores show conclusively that it works, a special reading program has been in place at Bulloch County Schools for the past several years. And when a math program was instituted, the accuracy of MAP data allowed administrators to see precisely how much math growth had occurred with participating students.
Ultimately, success with MAP depends on each student’s interest in owning their academic success, and at Bulloch County Schools, enthusiasm is high. Baker adds:
“In individual student conferences, they look at goal setting. The student can see how much they need to grow in each area, and that adds a lot to the ownership. We do try to set expectations, and we encourage intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. And after a child finishes, they can see their test results immediately, so that in turn helps that student take part in the whole process because it’s right there for them.”
From helping to inform instruction to program evaluation to helping students own their academic success, MAP has made a measurable impact on the schools in Bulloch County, Georgia, and excitement for future success runs high! You can read more about how Bulloch County and three other NWEA partners used MAP data to improve growth in our white paper.