My fifth graders were busily taking the MAP® Growth™ Math assessment. The room was quiet. While the proctor sat at her desk monitoring testing, I walked around slowly, watching my students work.
Suddenly, from across the room, I heard one of my boys, Randy, cry out, “How am I supposed to know?”
I ran over to quiet him down and see what the problem was. With an exasperated look on his face, he pointed at the question on the screen.
The item showed a ruler with a short pencil alongside. The question asked, “How long is the pencil?” I could see that the correct answer was to the quarter inch.
I suggested to Randy that he make his best guess and then move on.
After the test, I found his fourth-grade teacher and asked, “How much time did you spend last year on measuring with a ruler?” She replied, “Not much. I think they do more of that in third grade.”
So I went to one of the third-grade teachers and asked the same question. Her response, “I think they do that more in second grade.”
So I went to one of the second-grade teachers and asked her the question. She looked slightly confused as she responded, “I thought you did that in fifth grade?”
As a building, we knew that measurement was consistently a low area for our students. In our math series, measurement came at the end of the text books, and I think we had gotten into the habit of running out of time and short-changing that particular unit.
Because I heard Randy’s frustration with the ruler question, our staff was prompted to look more closely at the data and to make some changes. That year, I began adding in opportunities to practice measurement-related skills throughout the curriculum: measuring how far we could jump in health, measuring lines for perspective in art, and measuring capacity in science experiments. By the time he left for sixth grade, Randy knew how to use that ruler!
As a teacher, I was grateful for the chance to be in the room when my students took the MAP Growth assessments. There were several benefits that made being there well worth my time – these are my top three.
1. Better understand how the test works
In our building, teachers were sometimes asked to help with students from other classes who had accommodations for testing. When the MAP Growth assessments were new to me, I found it really helpful to volunteer to read the test questions for some of those students. I got to see what kinds of questions were on the assessment, and I got to see first-hand how much the test adapted based on the student’s responses. The way the test worked impressed me, and I felt better prepared to explain to students and parents what MAP Growth was all about.
2. Observe time and effort
Especially early in the school year, simply noticing the way students approach the test can provide some useful information about who they are as learners. Are there students who are rushing? Students who seem easily distracted? Students who seem stressed? Students who are using a lot of scratch paper, or students who seem to be doing all of the work in their heads? Watching them gave me some clues as to what habits and learning preferences I could use to our advantage in classwork.
3. Added insight into student needs
As a teacher, it can be hard not to intervene when you see a student struggling on a test question. But noting what kinds of questions students tend to struggle with can end up being useful for helping them later. Like with Randy and his ruler question, having the assessment data is a great way to begin to identify needs, but sometimes that extra little alert about a particular area of struggle can be really helpful.
MAP Growth assessments provide a wealth of data that helped me as a teacher better meet the needs of my students. Having the opportunity to watch my students take the tests gave me an opportunity to be the learner, to better understand my students and their needs, and to have a greater appreciation for the test itself.