Achievement Down Under: How an Australian School is Changing the Conversation with MAP Growth

Achievement Down Under: How an Australian School is Changing the Conversation with MAP Growth - TLG-IMG-05312018When the staff at MLC Junior School in New South Wales, Australia set out to use MAP Growth to better understand the learning needs of their student population, they had no idea they were entering into the national conversation about assessments. Now, after their first year of testing, as well as a recent government review of national educational strategies, educators throughout Australia are seeing how MAP Growth empowers teachers and supports student learning. Their approach is even making headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Building on a National Foundation

“We chose MAP Growth because of the adaptive nature of the assessment. We were impressed that we would have very clear information about the full extent of the students’ skills, including both strengths and relative weaknesses,” explains Sue Floro, former Head of the Junior School at MLC and current Head of Knox Grammar Preparatory School. “As an interim assessment, [MAP Growth] allows us to use the data to group students more effectively and target instruction at each student’s level of need, regardless of whether that’s at grade level, or well beyond.”

Australian educators also rely on the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), a mostly paper-and-pencil series of assessments that helps them compare performance at the school level. NAPLAN results take months to arrive, which presents a challenge for teachers looking for actionable data. With a nationwide data set for comparison, they’re able to see how their students are performing relative to other students throughout Australia. But at MLC Junior School, they wanted to go further.

“Despite the large collection of data, we were looking for personalized, formative data that we could use to track skill progression and identify next goals and learning steps. We wanted high quality, content-based assessments that would inform future directions for students,” says Nerida Greville, Learning Enhancement Coordinator of MLC Junior School Burwood. So rather than replace NAPLAN, they sought to supplement it—and at first, they weren’t sure how an assessment based on U.S. standards would work for Australian students.

Adapting to MAP Growth

After careful review, the staff at MLC Junior School determined that the American standards were closely aligned to Australian standards, and the discrepancies were a learning opportunity. Floro explains: “We learned very quickly that the few questions related to U.S. content did not impact the students’ scores. Additionally, we found that by giving the students a conversion chart, we could turn the process into a problem-solving exercise, further lessening any [potential] impact.” Greville agrees, adding, “The progression of conceptual understandings is the same for Aussie kids—we share the same number system! As MAP Growth is based on a continuum of learning it actually aligns itself closely to our learning framework.”

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Most importantly, when students and teachers began using MAP Growth and reviewing results that were available within 24 hours, assessment staff witnessed students and staff engage more than they ever had before. “MAP Growth became a tool [teachers] just couldn’t imagine living without. Teachers were so committed to the process that they would email me at 9 p.m. at night, when the data came in, amazed at the growth of their students,” Floro adds.

Likewise, students have embraced the goal-setting and progress monitoring of MAP Growth. Daniel Sandral, Head of the MLC Junior School, described the enthusiasm in the Sydney Morning Herald article: “These girls are flying in math. They’re so engaged, it gives me goose bumps. It really pinpoints the next challenge for them… [MAP Growth] tells us what’s just right for them. There is nothing currently in Australia that gives us that amount of information.”

Next Steps

After a successful year of using MAP Growth to assess math skills, MLC Junior School is ready to expand their testing into reading. The biggest changes, however, are in the new culture of achievement they’ve created: teachers are using next-day results to tailor learning for each individual student, and students are participating in their own growth in a way they’ve never seen before.  As Floro puts it: “As an educational leader, it is so satisfying to see such enthusiasm for personalizing learning; enthusiasm borne out of our observation of the incredible student growth we saw, once we structured our groupings and targeted our teaching to the various groups of learners and their needs.”