Posted on behalf of Lauren Wells
When I was an administrator and a coach, the opportunity to review the data from MAP Growth assessments was always enlightening and provided tremendous insight for instruction, especially in the winter. The winter testing window is a perfect opportunity to share and celebrate growth with students at the midpoint of the school year—when there’s still time to take action. As an administrator and a coach, I found that winter results were my “secret sauce” in supporting my teachers and, in turn, the students. Our winter reports showed me students’ instructional levels, and gave me insights about their individual learning preferences and learning styles, and when teachers used them in conjunction with the learning continuum, they were able to make lesson planning more effective for the remainder of the year.
I’m sure that as educators, we’ve all been there: we create what we think might be the greatest lesson ever, only to later discover that it missed the mark. Maybe it went over some kids’ heads. Perhaps they were missing underlying skills they needed in order to engage. For me, that was always disheartening but, more importantly, it created new work: I then had to go back and revisit topics or skills to bring everyone up to speed. Winter testing with MAP Growth, along with the learning continuum, solved that problem for my teachers.
Once students had tested, my work with teachers began. I started with the Class Breakdown by Goal report. That was my favorite place to start because it put my teachers in the right mindset: we all have areas of strength and areas where we can improve. Working with my teachers, we would begin by comparing their students’ winter scores with how they performed in the fall, so we could see who was on track to meet their growth goals for the year, which students were ready for new challenges, and who might need a little extra help. That gave my teachers a foundation for using the learning continuum—looking at the students’ winter scores and aligning them with specific skills and concepts—so they could create targeted lesson plans and instructional groups built around their needs.
Winter test results were also used to check in on students’ progress toward state proficiency goals and to get an idea of how they might perform on the ACT or SAT exams. For that, my teachers used the Class Breakdown by Projected Proficiency report, which quickly highlighted whether or not they were on track to proficiency in different subjects, as well as their projected ACT/SAT scores. But the important part, to me, was that we could work with students to do better by using the learning continuum to see what they’re ready to learn next.
My students weren’t always thrilled about taking tests, but they definitely appreciated being able to see their own progress, and they loved the opportunity to make adjustments. Winter testing helped me and my teachers make sure our lesson plans were always relevant, and it helped them see that the future isn’t set in stone—with the right data, they could meet any goal we set together.
Lauren Wells is a professional learning consultant for NWEA. She is an experienced instructional coach who has worked in K–12 education, assessment, and educational technology since 2001. Lauren has worked with educators throughout her career, including as assistant principal and later principal for South Lake Schools in St. Claire Shores, Michigan. She received her EdS and PhD focused on educational leadership from Oakland University in 2018.