When the WKCE test results were released in the spring, Chris Van Hoof, director of curriculum at the Clintonville School District, said the district was not happy with the results.
She also emphasized that those results were just one of the items that is used to measure the progress of students.
Another method of monitoring the progress of students in the Clintonville School District is through MAPs testing. The district has been using this type of testing for about five years.
MAPs test overview
“MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) is an individualized, computer adaptive test, so it doesn’t know or care what your age is,” Van Hoof said. “What happens is as you answer questions it adapts to how you answer. If you are answering them correctly, the test gets more difficult and [if you are answering them] incorrectly, the test gets easier.”
Van Hoof said the results of MAPs tests can pinpoint with a relative degree of accuracy the current instructional level of each student in math, language arts and reading. Results are also available within 24 hours after the test is taken.
“Individually, it is about where is every single child,” Van Hoof said. “Collectively it gives us data on where is this grade level as a whole and what are the strengths and weaknesses.
The quickness in which results are obtained is important because it allows the district to properly place and monitor individual students.
Van Hoof said students K through 10th grade take the MAPs test three times a year. The first test is given within the first two weeks of the start of school in the fall.
“We try to get MAPs testing done because we want to know kids’ incoming levels,” Van Hoof said. “We do it again in the winter, and we call that a ‘Bench Marker Interim Assessment.’
“What we are looking for would be have we appropriately placed kids, are there some kids who we have missed, are they still getting what they need, have they changed since we placed them last time and are they on track for the growth that we expect by the end of the year.”
A final MAPs test is given in the spring and the results are tabulated so the district can see the growth of the students from fall to spring. The district can find out which students improved, how much they improved, and if they hit their growth target.
The test itself
Van Hoof said the first time a student takes the MAPs test, the questions start with the national norm for that grade level. Then based on whether the student answers with correct or incorrect answers, the test gets harder or easier. It would be possible for a second grade student to test out at a college level, as the test questions do go that high. It is also possible a 10th grade student could test out at a second grade level.
“Because it’s on the computer and because it’s individualized there is no way really for kids to cheat because they don’t have the same questions. They don’t have the same questions at the same time, so they can just focus on the one in front of them,” Van Hoof said.
The tests are not timed, so students can take as long as they need to finish the tests.
“If they breeze through the test and don’t read the questions, the computer will kick them out and make them start over. It knows that they haven’t read the questions because they couldn’t have done the test in that amount of time. That’s another motivation for kids not to just blow it off and breeze through it,” Van Hoof said.
Another unique aspect about the MAPs test is every time a student takes it, the test will pick up where the student left off when they finished the last test.
Students and the test results
Van Hoof said the students are given their fall MAPs test results before they take the winter test and they are given their winter MAPs test results before they take the spring test. She said that provides the students with a video game mentality of they need to keep beating their score.
“Instead of the defeated attitude of, ‘I’m never going to be able to reach grade level or I’m right here and the bar is so high,’ now the bar is for every individual,” Van Hoof said. “One of the exciting things about MAPs is sometimes the below grade level kids who have never experienced success on a standardized test, on these tests they are excited because they can see some progress and they say, ‘Wow.’
“The ones who are most frustrated with MAPs testing are gifted and talented kids because they have never experienced difficult questions on a test. They’ve always been above grade level. It’s always been easy for them and now they are experiencing a test that is really challenging and they raise their hand and say, ‘This isn’t fair. You didn’t teach us this stuff.’ And we say, ‘Just do your best, we know that.’ All they would see on WKCE is grade level questions, and they are above grade level, so those questions to them are easy.”
Van Hoof said the main thing the district concentrates on with the MAPs scores is the “trend over time.”
“The other thing that we always say, and it’s true of WKCE, it’s true of MAPs testing, it’s true of any assessment you ever give, you should never be making major important decisions about kids based on a single test score,” Van Hoof said.
She said the scores from MAPs tests, the WKCE test and input from teachers help show the progress, or lack of progress, of students over time.
The school and the test results
Van Hoof said the district uses the MAPs test results in two ways. First, on a macro level, the results are used to determine if the district has curriculum issues.
Based on the test results from fall 2011 to spring 2012, with the exception of the 10th grade, every other grade in the district has grown at or above the national average in reading, Van Hoof said. The same can be said for math except for the fifth grade.
“Which is great news considering that in some cases we started below the national average and by spring we were at or above,” Van Hoof said. “Really what we are talking about is we need to close the gap.”
Van Hoof said more growth is expected from the younger students and then the growth levels off.
“The higher you get, the harder it is to grow,” Van Hoof said.
The MAPs test results are also used by the district to find strengths and weaknesses.
“To say that we are doing well or not in reading is not enough for us,” Van Hoof said. “What is it specifically about reading that we are doing well in and what aren’t we.”
Using that information it can be determined if changes in curriculum is needed or teachers need new training.
WKCE versus MAPs testing
Van Hoof said members of the community have a right to be worried about the low WKCE test results.
“We want those scores to improve, but they need to understand that that’s only one small part of the story,” Van Hoof said. “Our overall achievement is not where we want it to be and that’s what the WKCE tells us. However, the other data says our school is doing great things. We are moving kids. We are growing kids. We are providing opportunities. And that is the news that I don’t think most people know about.
“I’m saying that our total achievement indicates that we’re not performing well but our growth indicates we are.”