Three Tips for Avoiding State Assessment Surprises

Here are three tips I learned from my adventures in learning to trust student assessment data and MAP projections.

My MAP® story began long before joining NWEA, when I was a district administrator in Massillon City Schools, Ohio. As is still the case, all third-grade students needed a proficient reading score on the Ohio state assessment to move on to fourth grade. With the goal of getting all students on track, the district purchased MAP just before I was hired.

In August, we implemented MAP in K-12, and the initial results projected that one third of our third graders would not be proficient on the state assessment at the end of the year. We didn’t panic right away, because we were all unfamiliar with MAP and weren’t overly confident with the predictions. While our lack of confidence in the results turned out to be a misstep, the process of learning to trust and use the data created many opportunities for growth across the district. Here are three tips I learned from my adventures in learning to trust student assessment data.

Tip #1: Don’t Discount the Data

In the beginning of October, our third graders took the state test. When the results arrived later that month, we learned that exactly one third of our third graders did not earn a proficient score. I still remember sitting in our administrative cabinet meeting with my Superintendent asking me, “Well… what are you going do now?!” I reached for my imaginary phone to call the University of Akron and ask for my old job back!

Tip #2: Make an Informed Plan of Action to Fill the Gaps

We learned quickly that the MAP data was highly valid, and that we needed to act fast to get our teachers and students back on track. To begin, we completely reorganized our district’s RTI plan. Based on our MAP data, we concluded that our elementary students were weak in phonics and phonological awareness skills, so we invested in a literacy intervention program. My RTI coordinators also revamped our protocols and procedures for moving students from one tier of intervention to another.

We used MAP data to inform improvements across the entire district, not just for our third graders. For example, we noted that our middle school students performed poorly on the MAP Science assessment. This wasn’t entirely surprising, given the lack of elementary science curricula. Because of this information, we purchased a science curriculum for our young students.

Tip #3: Encourage Engagement

Lastly, we found ways to involve other stakeholders in the data. We used MAP data to identify instructional gaps, and invested in appropriate professional development for our teachers and principals. Our teachers shared MAP Student Goal Setting Worksheets with parents during conferences, and we also held a “MAP Parent Night” for our elementary parents. We recognized the need to invest our time and resources wisely with our youngest learners and their parents to better prepare everyone for success after elementary school. It was a key part of our strategy to make sure our administrators, teachers, parents, and students all understood the role MAP data plays in student success.

The moral of the story?

In May, our third graders took the state assessment for the final time, and we promoted all but two students to fourth grade! Our results clearly showed us that learning to trust our MAP projections, and moving quickly to act on the results was well worth it. Years later, I’m so excited to be working at NWEA and helping other districts make similar breakthroughs with their data.


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