MAP Growth 101: Everything families need to know

If your child takes MAP® Growth™ at school and you’re not sure what it’s for or how it works, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know, from what it is to how teachers use it to help your child learn.

MAP Growth defined  

MAP Growth is an interim, responsive, computer-based assessment for K–12 students. That’s a really dense definition. Let’s break it down.

  • Interim: The test is taken up to three times a year, usually at the start of the school year, halfway through, and near the end. This lets teachers get clear snapshots of how students are doing often and early enough that they can adjust their lesson plans as needed.
  • Responsive: Each question on MAP Growth is generated based on the question—and answer—that came right before it. If a student gets it right, the next one is harder. If they get it wrong, the next one’s easier. Students can’t ace the assessment, even if they’re answering questions well beyond their grade level correctly. But what they get is even better than an A at the top of a test paper: they get an accurate measure of their zone of proximal development, or ZPD, the sweet spot for learning and growing. (More on ZPD in a minute.)
  • Computer-based: This just means kids take MAP Growth on a computer. Long gone are the days of filling in bubbles on a sheet of paper.
  • Assessment: An assessment is a test. MAP Growth is a test, plain and simple. While students don’t get a grade on it, they do get a score, which makes it possible to plot their growth over time, whether that’s a single school year or several years in a row.

Kids can take MAP Growth in math, reading, language usage, and science. Your child’s RIT score reflects how they did on the test. (That acronym stands for Rasch Unit, a concept that gets pretty technical pretty fast. In the mood to geek out? Wikipedia to the rescue!) Your child’s RIT is the number that lets teachers know where they are academically and what to focus on to move learning forward.

MAP Growth is a unique testing experience for kids because they don’t pass or fail. In fact, for teachers to get that accurate ZPD view into what each kid knows, students will get about half the questions wrong. That doesn’t mean their score doesn’t belong on the fridge (it does) or that cracking open a celebratory pint of ice cream is out of the question (in fact, we strongly recommend it).

How teachers use MAP Growth

MAP Growth is a powerful tool for helping your child’s teacher understand how best to support every kid’s academic needs. In the fall, teachers use MAP Growth scores to understand individual student needs and set personalized learning goals for the year, based on the learning expectations set for your child’s grade at the state level. In the winter, they use the scores to gauge progress and course correct as needed. In the spring, scores predict how a student is likely to perform on the state-mandated end-of-year test while there’s still enough time to modify instruction.

Helping kids focus on mastering grade-level skills during a school year is critical; we all want children meeting grade-level standards and successfully moving from one grade to the next every June. But helping kids stay engaged and develop a deep love of learning is important, too. Because MAP Growth shows teachers what a student knows and is ready to learn next—that’s the zone of proximal development I mentioned earlier—it makes it much easier to design lessons and assignments that keep children active in their learning. When kids are in the zone, so to speak, the new material they’re tasked with learning is just hard enough to motivate them but not so hard that they shut down. It’s not so easy that they get bored and check out, either.

What are some of the ways you might see your child’s teacher make decisions based on MAP Growth results? If test scores reflect that the whole class needs to brush up on fractions or reading comprehension, for example, they’ll likely rework their lesson plan so there’s time to revisit and conquer those topics before moving on to more difficult tasks. If scores show student needs are widely different, your child’s teacher can use that data to personalize instruction. One of the coolest things about MAP Growth is that it helps teachers quickly and easily access materials that can help each student get to the next step in their learning. For example, teachers can use MAP Growth scores to build personalized math learning paths for kids in grades 3–8 using Khan Academy (your school may rely on a tool we created with Khan called MAP® Accelerator™), or they can find the right text for practicing reading and comprehension with Newsela.

Get ready for testing

You’re an essential part of your child’s learning support system. To help them get the most out of MAP Growth, here are some things to try—and just one thing to avoid.

  • DO read everything your school shares with you about MAP Growth. Your school is the best place to get answers about things like testing days and times, technology issues, and other logistics.
  • DO talk to your child’s teacher about what to expect leading up to, on, and after testing day. In most cases, when teachers use data to inform or guide their teaching, they’re using a lot of data from a variety of sources, including from daily classwork and observations. Ask your child’s teacher how MAP Growth data fits in. If they don’t share a Family Report with you at your next conference, ask them for one.
  • DO help your child prepare. That’s “prepare,” not “study.” Students shouldn’t study for MAP Growth, but it’s always good to know what to expect. A little confidence building can help nervous test takers feel more at ease, too. Read “Preparing for MAP Growth: 20 tips for families” for more details.
  • DO check out our Family Toolkit. Videos, guides, and more will let you dig even deeper with MAP Growth. Are you testing from home because of COVID-19 school closures? Our checklist will guide you to success.
  • DO see what it’s like to take MAP Growth. Driver’s ed is great, but nothing beats getting behind the wheel. Try our sample tests and get the same experience your child will (and remember, there is no passing or failing MAP Growth, even if you’re a grown-up).
  • DON’T view your child’s RIT score as a grade. Your child’s MAP Growth RIT score isn’t a grade. It’s a single data point that helps their teacher know what they’re ready to learn next. It’s there to inform a teacher’s instructional decisions, not to label or pigeonhole your child.

Lastly, a moment of gratitude

Families have always been central to every student’s MAP Growth journey, so as you’re going through the process with your child—from setting meaningful goals and tracking their progress to celebrating their growth—crack open a pint of ice cream just for yourself. The time, commitment, and love that you put into supporting learning is incredible. Everything you’re putting into it in the age of COVID… Well, let’s just say that we support you in going all in on self-care, whatever that may look like for you these days.

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