Ever wonder what MAP is?  What does it mean?  What does it stand for?  What exactly is my first grader talking about?  

Here’s the low-down:
MAP is an acronym for Measure of Academic Progress, a computerized assessment tool that is used to gauge student knowledge and can, in turn, drive small group instruction in the classroom.
In “teacher-speak,” here’s what the creator, NWEA, says about this valuable tool:
“MAP for Primary Grades tests provide teachers with an efficient way 
to assess ability levels of early learners so they can spend less 
time on individual diagnostics and more time teaching. The MAP for 
Primary Grades reports display data from the Screening and Skills 
Checklist tests giving teachers excellent tools for planning 
differentiated instruction.”

MAP is a measurement of growth as it “benchmarks” your child’s knowledge with the first assessment (for some, clear back in Kindergarten) and keeps a running record of the skills they have gained since.  
Here is an example of the graph that parents and teachers can use to find areas of concern and reasons to celebrate!  This student is doing well - note the measurable growth!

The dark blue line indicates this student's skills and knowledge.  The light blue line indicates what an "average" first grader is expected to score.  Click here to learn more about NWEA.
Assessment-talk can be tricky and there are plenty of naysayers out there.  “An assessment such as this is a measure of what ONE student could do on ONE day!”  Or, even better, “Primary elementary students shouldn’t be evaluated with a standardized test.”  I agree!  But here’s the deal:  the MAP assessment is given three times a year (for primary elementary – older students are different!)  These tests in Reading and Math, are taken on different days.  So that’s really six total days of assessment spread out over a year in order to show measurable growth!  

This is nothing like the testing that took place when we were in school!  Once upon a time, we took the fill-in-the-bubble tests and no one knew the results until the end of that academic year or even the beginning of the next.  Did that help teachers instruct students?  No.  Did it challenge or motivate students to grow and improve?  No.  The most important difference between those tests of old and MAP?  The feedback (“score”) is immediate!  The teacher AND the students know their score right away after each test.  By the next day, teachers can print a “plan of action” and immediately begin teaching what is recommended (more on that later!) 

Another important difference lies in the motivation factor.  MAP assessment is SUPER motivating for because it comes to them in a media format they are familiar with – the computer.  Each question is read aloud to the student and can be re-read at the click of a button.  When necessary, the answers are read aloud as well.  On the math portion, colorful manipulatives are available within the program for young learners to move around, count, order, etc.  Equally motivating is the fact that students know their prior scores and are trying to beat them!  We discuss their previous scores and students are trying their hardest to match or exceed them.  If they beat their previous score - we celebrate!  If they don't, we discuss slowing down, taking your time, and really thinking about each question.  The days of reading a question and filling in the bubble may not be completely extinct – but we are beginning to realize that there are better ways to define learning.

Your next question may be, “How exactly does the scoring work?”  (or maybe not, but I’m going to tell you anyway!)  Here’s what I tell my kids: 

“The assessment starts out with first grade level questions (fill in that
 last statement with your child’s grade level).  If you get that question 
right, it kicks it up a notch, asking you a harder question.  If you get 
that right, it continues to get more difficult because the computer knows 
you're smart!  Once you get an answer wrong, it (the computer) begins 
looking for a pattern of one-right, one-wrong.  Once that pattern is 
established, the computer has found the level of difficulty you are 
most comfortable with (we call that ‘instructional’ level – where they

 are most comfortably instructed).”  

Here is a print-out of the range of scores for this year's first graders.  Immediately I can look to see where students place in their class and the numbers give me an indication of those working at, below, or above grade level. 

There are three windows for MAP testing in Wakefield:  Fall testing (right away, at the beginning of the year), Winter testing (right before Christmas break for primary grades), and Spring testing (in early May).  At Parent-Teacher Conferences we will share the MAP assessment data with parents and, as a teacher who’s seen IT ALL in the way of assessments in the past 18 years; this one test is the absolute truest indicator of student knowledge and skills next to direct teacher observation in the classroom!   Each student’s profile is available to the teacher immediately and s(he) can individualize instruction immediately.  The “score” your child achieves sets in motion a list of skills/knowledge that they are ready to tackle.  In my classroom, specific goals are set for students, introduced in small group, and practiced independently during Daily 5.  I am continually AMAZED at the knowledge that first graders can handle and actually crave!
This is the "plan of action" that I can print out for each student.  Specific goals are clearly defined and ready for me to teach in small group instruction. Click here to learn more about NWEA

So, as we get into the wild and crazy time of year called "SCHOOL" and you hear your child talking about this MAP test, do me a favor and HYPE IT UP!   Encourage them to do their best!  This is their chance to “show off” what they’ve learned so far and an opportunity to set new goals for learning for the rest of the year. 

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