As any researcher will tell you, good data doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of a lot of care and planning. When administering an interim assessment like MAP® Growth™, we get good data when students are well prepared, engaged, and ready to give their best effort.
This is no small feat during normal times, and as COVID-19 continues to influence teaching and learning, this may feel particularly challenging right now. But remember: preparing your students for winter testing doesn’t mean “teaching to the test.” Rather, test preparation—when it’s done well—means students go into the testing experience with the information, encouragement, and sense of pride they need to do their best.
Prepping students in this way is the focus of our article “10 do’s and don’ts of student test preparation.” These handy tips are evergreen, but now—with winter assessments around the corner—is an especially good time to take a fresh look at them and think anew about how these best practices can be applied in these pandemic-altered times of ours.
Before the assessment
First, let’s look at a few do’s and don’ts in the days and weeks before administering MAP Growth:
- Do help students understand the purpose of the assessment.
- Do introduce or review how the test works.
- Don’t differently motivate your students, accidentally or on purpose.
- Don’t take test scheduling lightly.
These tips may seem like common sense, but they’re especially important following interrupted learning during school closures. Many students need extra help and encouragement this year. Scheduling can also feel more complicated as administrators work to accommodate social distancing requirements, absences, and other obstacles.
As you go about putting these best practices into action, remember this mantra: communicate, communicate, communicate. Keeping a channel open with students and families is critical. Communicating early and often about MAP Growth—and why students take it—will help you set expectations with your learners and keep them feeling connected throughout the process.
[T]est preparation—when it’s done well—means students go into the testing experience with the information, encouragement, and sense of pride they need to do their best.
As for introducing students to MAP Growth itself, administering a practice test is a great way to reduce anxiety or trepidation. Practice tests benefit students not only by showing them what the test items look like, but also by giving them hands-on experience with the technical aspects of the testing process.
Assessment isn’t about ranking students. It’s about understanding where each kid is in their learning so you can tailor your instruction to meet their needs. Encourage everyone in your class to do their best. Make sure they understand that their test results aren’t there to label them; they’re there to help you be the exact teacher they need.
During the assessment
- Do ensure the testing area is comfortable and familiar.
- Do lead by example.
- Do intervene when appropriate.
- Don’t let students miss the test or avoid a make-up session.
As much as you can, help students feel comfortable in the testing space. Will it be the computer lab down the hall? Try to arrange a quick visit ahead of time if your class isn’t already familiar with the space.
Show them the seriousness of the task at hand by remaining engaged during the test yourself. Rather than grading quietly at the front of the room the whole time, make a point of walking around. If a child seems upset, talk to them; they may just have a big case of nerves. If they’re disengaged—especially if the console prompts you that they’re rapid guessing—ask them how they’re feeling and what you can do to help them be successful.
Encourage everyone in your class to do their best. Make sure they understand that their test results aren’t there to label them; they’re there to help you be the exact teacher they need.
Finally, though it can be difficult to work around quarantine-related absences, do what you can to ensure all students take MAP Growth so you have the data you need and so there aren’t too many missing data points as the child moves from grade to grade at your school.
After the assessment
- Do set individual and class-wide goals.
- Don’t keep the data to yourself.
By following the advice laid out above, you should end up with the high-quality assessment data you need to get a clear-eyed look at your students’ learning progress and plan your instruction accordingly. Lean on it as you work to help individual students and your class as a whole know what they’re working toward this year.
MAP Growth data is meant to be shared. It will provide your students with invaluable feedback, helping them set and stay connected to learning goals. And by engaging with caregivers about how their students performed and how the results will inform what and how you teach, you’ll remind families of the critical role they play in setting their kids up for a successful testing experience.