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Stop me if you’ve heard this one: I’m filling out my son’s next Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) that’s due when he turns three, and I’m freaking out, convinced that the responses I add today will tragically cripple the rest of his academic life and chances at future success. Naturally, I’m picturing his high school graduation speech, where he’ll go into great detail about all of the ways my parenting choices held him back, and he’ll pontificate on his own achievements, proud that he overcame all the setbacks my decisions created for him.


So I call the pediatrician’s office and ask about how to best help him prepare for the ASQ; after all, I want him to do well on it. And I can sense some hesitation from the nurse as she calmly explains to me that the ASQ isn’t something you prepare for, and that the purpose of a good growth measure is to help kids get the help they need, and not to help them pass, so it needs to be an accurate reflection of their abilities. She goes on to say that we’ll continue to use the ASQ as a growth measure to compare results, and eventually he’ll transition to a growth measure for older kids.


“Ideally,” she goes on, “You could use one measurement for all of his years in school, so you’d always be able to support specific needs over time, but we’re not quite there yet.”


I can’t help but smile, because I’ve been connected to NWEA and MAP Growth in various ways since 2005—and during my time working with partner school districts, I had similar conversations, trying to help others see that you can’t really study for a MAP Growth assessment. I laugh because when she wistfully said, ‘We’re not quite there yet,’ I wanted to correct her—”MAP Growth has an equal-interval scale, and there are assessments from K-12!” I wanted to tell her—but more to the point, I’m relieved.


Relieved, because up until that moment, I hadn’t really realized how grateful I am for MAP Growth and the educators who use it. Grateful for the people who live in the world of standardized milestones like 3rd-grade reading proficiency, and remain dedicated to not just teaching kids the same things year after year, but helping each of them where they need it. “Whatever happens,” I remind myself, “We’ll make sure to get him connected to MAP Growth, so I can help him with whatever he needs, regardless of grade level. Doesn’t matter if he struggles, or he’s a genius; the approach will be the same.”


I take a deep breath, and start answering the questions again. Is he able to put a shirt on by himself? Are you kidding me? He insists on doing it himself, and gets upset if we try to help him. Is he able to use safety scissors to cut construction paper? No, because we’re not monsters who give toddlers scissors to play with. Can he point to a picture of himself and say his own name? He’s a millennial; of course his selfie game is on point. Can he kick a ball? I wouldn’t know, because in our family, we realize that most sports are silly. Can he string beads? We’ve seen videos from daycare, so we know he can do it—but if either of us asks him to, he pretends like he’s never seen a bead before in his life.


I filled out the bubbles honestly.


That’s a big deal for me, because I’m no longer worried about what will happen as a result of my answers. He’s a kid, so that means he’s going to be ahead in some areas, behind in others, and my wife and I are going to help him grow at the pace he’s going to grow—because the timetable was never up to us in the first place.


That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to sweat the milestones, though. We’ll track all of the benchmarks, from 3rd-grade reading proficiency through the ACT or SAT (or whatever test kids are taking on SnapChat to get into college in the future). Standardized measures and benchmarks have their place, and they can be truly useful—and at the same time, the mindset has changed for both my wife and I. We’ll use the standardized measurements as signposts—but not finish lines.


Our mindset is now just to focus on helping him achieve his goals, whatever they may be. In the meantime, we’re just going to thank our stars that we live in an era where we can do that. And we’re going to thank our stars for the teachers who will use all the data they get—and I know, it’s a lot—to help our son grow.

We've worked with partner school districts from across the country with strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiativesand some are even using MAP Growth Science to track growth across their programs. 


Whether you're using MAP Growth Science or MAP Growth Science for use with Next  Generation Science Standards, we want to hear about it!


What student population are you working with, and what have been the most powerful gains they've made?


How have MAP Growth Science reports helped inform your approach to your STEM? 

Nothing is more fundamental than reading—and when it comes to early learners, helping them learn to read is especially critical to their long-term academic success. Research in the field of early literacy is still evolving, but it’s consistently clear about one thing: in order to thrive and become strong readers, early learners need a support system that includes multiple sources. In other words, no single approach is good enough on its own, and the most effective young readers work toward their goals both at school and at home.


MAP Reading Fluency is designed to be one of the key data points that teachers use to help their early learners thrive; it’s built as a tool to support instructional decisions without eating up classroom time. With an objective, research-driven tool like MAP Reading Fluency, you can lead powerful conversations during parent-teacher conferences as you work together to build each child’s support system. Here’s how.


1. Administer MAP Reading Fluency to your early learners.

Everything starts with using a MAP Reading Fluency assessment; your student results will be one of the key data points you’ll provide to parents, and both the student’s responses and their audio recordings will help inform the choices you make for each individual child.


While giving a computer assessment to your youngest learners may sound daunting, we’ve built MAP Reading Fluency to be as streamlined as possible—so you can focus on maximizing classroom time. With MAP Reading Fluency, you can test the entire class at once, and get objective results with actionable data in about 20 minutes. The entire process is simple enough that you can periodically assess the students to track their progress. We generally recommend having students take MAP Reading Fluency assessments once at the beginning of the school-year, once before mid-year break, and once at the end of the school-year.


2. Share the audio review page and the Student Progress Report.

There are two main MAP Reading Fluency resources to rely on for parent-teacher conferences: the audio review page and the Student Progress Report. The audio review page has the actual audio recordings of each individual student’s responses, and the Student Progress Report breaks down how the student performed in individual areas like word recognition, listening comprehension, and even sentence reading fluency.


The Student Progress Report is ideal for leading a discussion around trends in the data—the student’s overall strength and challenges—and the audio recordings can be used as examples to support those trends. For example, if a child is struggling with initial sounds, you can show parents the score, alongside actual examples of the student’s responses that lead to the data.


3. Present assessment data alongside other data points.

While MAP Reading Fluency results are reliable and useful, they shouldn’t be used alone as the sole source of information about each student’s abilities. Instead, they should function as one star in a constellation of data points about each student.


Be sure to bring information to parent-teacher conferences that includes additional insights about their child—many teachers go so far as to create “conferring notes binders,” which help them catalog data points about each student like classroom observations, grades, or unique strengths and challenges.


4. Have a strengths-based conversation and discuss next steps with parents based on the data.

With all of your data in hand, including both MAP Reading Fluency results and your own insights and observations, it’s important to develop a narrative that identifies what each student knows currently and what they’re ready to learn next.

This is often referred to as a “strengths-based conversation,” because you’re framing the information in a way that both highlights and celebrates the student’s current achievements while also being clear about what challenges they’re ready to face. Ultimately, your work in this step will be to share your analysis of the student’s performance and potential in a way that is supported by data and easily understood.


During this step, it’s important to collaborate, and get parental input on the student’s narrative—they may be able to share their own experiences which can further inform your perspective.


5. Provide resources to help parents get involved with student goals at home.

The most effective parent-teacher conferences are the ones where parents and teachers develop partnerships to create a consistent support system for the student. As you’re preparing for conferences, consider adding supplemental materials to help them work with their child on the goals they’ve set at school. For example, many teachers include flash cards, reading lists, or specific tablet apps that target each student’s specific needs.


As you’re working together, make sure you’re making connections between what the data reflects and the strategies you’re recommending. For example, if a student is struggling in the area of Blending & Segmenting, you could share a word list with parents that includes specific vocabulary, and help them understand how using the word list can help their child improve in the specific area of Blending & Segmenting.


6. Set a follow-up date to check in on each student’s progress.

Because parent-teacher conferences are periodic, it can sometimes be a challenge to stay in sync as a team with parents. But if you’re planning on coordinating with them to make sure they’re working with their kids toward the same goals they set in the classroom, regular check-ins are essential.


Once you’ve reviewed all of the results together and agreed upon a strategy for helping the student improve, set a date where you’ll speak again and discuss any new developments or needed changes. At a minimum, that should be at the mid-year point of the school-year, but it’s also important to give the student enough time to make changes. Many parents opt to check in over email or through a phone call—check-ins don’t have to be formal, so long as you’re discussing what’s working, what can be done differently, and any new developments in the student’s life.



No matter what literacy challenges an early learner faces, supporting them effectively means making sure they have the opportunities to growth both in the classroom and at home. By using these steps, you’re creating a support system that’s backed by objective research—and also takes into account insights from parents and the classroom.


Special thanks to Amy Schmidt for her contributions to this  blog post.