As a young student, I hated standardized tests, or any multiple-choice tests for that matter! In my mind, I could usually justify why several answers would be correct, so to select only one answer was a struggle. Everything, in my mind, was a matter of perspective, so when it came to penciling in one correct answer, I experienced major stress!
Young learners in the United States today also experience test-taking stresses, but for different reasons. Performance anxiety is one major reason. In 2005, it was estimated that between 10% and 40% of all students suffer from various levels of test anxiety. Imagine what those statistics are today! Picture having to do your best when it’s not a good day for you, or when you don’t feel confident with the content. Another factor is that students feel disconnected, not knowing why they must take the test. Without the motivation or inspiration being driven by a reason, the student could be apathetic about their performance.
Conducting a simple internet search of #NWEA or #MAP will yield results from many educators praising the MAP® assessment, and many students dreading the experience. I wanted to get more insight into students’ views of MAP, and a better understanding of how we can include parents in the conversation, so I took the assessment. Keep reading to see how that went!
My testing experience!
I began the MAP math assessment as a sample 6th grader, so that means the questions were at the level where a typical 6th grader performs on MAP. It felt like an easy journey at the beginning. I’ve been in 6th grade before. I’ve even taught 7th and 8th grade math. I’ve got this content! But wait, I’ve been a teacher. I’ve got a degree in math. I should get the top score.
Tip #1: Don’t should on yourself.
My first mistake was “shoulding” on myself. Shoulds are indicators that someone else’s voice is in my head. Students enter testing with a lot of shoulds from stakeholders who mean well, but often that meaning gets lost in translation once it reaches the student. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a test of what I know, but rather what I was ready to learn. I had to remember that the intention was for me and someone else (like my teacher) to use my results to help me grow. MAP differs from many of the tests students take. Most tests are designed to assess what skills they have mastered. MAP assesses what you are ready to learn. Reminding students of this difference can help ensure they don’t should on themselves.
Back to my testing experience.
- 5 minutes in: I began to reach for pen and paper, as I could no longer do the calculations in my head with ease. I noticed a calculator appeared on the screen. This let me know that my questions were adapting to more challenging questions, and that I was answering correctly.
- 10 minutes in: I began to have flashbacks of my high school Calculus class where I first learned that co-sex was really a math term– cosine of x. The questions were adapting quickly to a much higher level.
- 20 minutes in: The slightest distraction in the room made me crave silence. Not another announcement over the intercom! How many people need to come in and out of this room?! I noticed I was fidgeting in my seat and became very thirsty – indicators that I was beginning to feel stressed.
- 30 minutes in: I took a short break and returned to the test refreshed. Once I got into my testing groove, I noticed that I was getting hungry. Working your brain can do that for you!
Tip #2: Make the environment conducive to the experience.
Make sure students have what they need to make their MAP testing experience comfortable. For some students, it may mean a water break; for others, a stretch break. And for all students, I’d recommend a quiet environment. It’s also important that students are well fed prior to testing.
I took the assessment alone, but could you imagine if I had been in a room full of 25 other math teachers? Talk about peer pressure! It’s important to note that with MAP, every student has a different set of questions, and the assessment adapts for everyone at their pace and level. If you have many students in the same room taking MAP, you want to remind them that everyone is on a different journey. It’s easy to become self-conscious or diffident when your peer seems to be navigating the MAP highway with ease if you see yourself as struggling.
Tip #3: Be more than just a data point.
After I completed the MAP assessment, I received an overall RIT score, and several other specific RIT scores. I knew immediately what my Zone of Proximal Development was for mathematics, and specifically for goal areas in math, such as Algebra and Geometry. After looking at my RIT scores, I had flashbacks of receiving not-so-stellar grades in high school and thinking to myself, “But I’m so much more than this number or grade!” So I pushed that fearful flashback aside and located my RIT scores on NWEA’s Learning Continuum to see which skills I was ready to learn. This concise and thorough tool told me exactly which skills I was ready to learn for almost every mathematical concept.
I encourage educators to equip students and parents with more than just their scores. Help them translate those scores to instructional readiness skills through one of our student reports, such as the Student Profile report. This will help students have a much better understanding of why MAP is an important assessment, and is just one small step in helping them become more assessment literate.
A brief reflection.
My testing experience helped me have empathy for our young people, and now I know how they often feel when taking MAP. Educators, it’s important that empathy stay at the center of all we do, and empathy comes through connection, specifically:
- Help students and parents understand their RIT scores and instructional readiness skills
- Talk with other educators through our NWEA community
- Check out the Parent’s Guide to MAP and other resources on this blog
Lastly, are you wondering what my RIT scores were?
I’m not telling! But, if you join me in an upcoming workshop or conference, I can discuss the experience with you. In school districts already using MAP, NWEA offers professional development consulting, coaching, and training to ensure that educators are well equipped to understand how to interpret and utilize MAP instruction in the classroom, and to help educators communicate with students and parents about MAP data.