This summer, NWEA released the MAP Growth Goal Explorer, a free online tool to help students, teachers, and families simplify the goal-setting process. Show of Hands sat down with Dr. Nate Jensen, director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA and one of the architects behind this new solution. Nate’s responses have been edited for length and clarity
Why is goal setting so important for students, teachers, and families?
We know that the expectations we should have for kids differ, depending on their achievement level. We can have different expectations for our highest achievers than we do for our lowest achievers. To put it differently, average growth for some kids might be fine and for others, it's not enough. Kids who make average growth are just going to stay on about the same achievement level. So if you've got a 30th-percentile kid, below average, who makes typical growth, they're going to stay about the 30th percentile. That's not good, right? We want to accelerate those kids, especially now, in a world where we think kids are likely going to have taken a step backwards after [COVID closures]. What kind of steps are needed to get every kid to the places they need to go?
What is MAP Growth Goal Explorer, and how can it support goal setting?
MAP Growth Goal Explorer is an online tool to help generate goals based on a student’s grade level and RIT scores. We built this tool because goal setting can be very amorphous. We want to balance what is meaningful with what is realistic.
So the goal of the Goal Explorer is really twofold:
1. To help parents, families, teachers, and students really evaluate what goals would be meaningful for them.
2. And then give them information in plain language, focusing on qualitative rather than quantitative information.
How do you envision teachers and families using this tool?
Given that we're starting the year in a largely virtual way—students aren't going to know the teacher, the teacher isn't going to know the student, the teacher isn't going to know the families, etc.—we viewed this as a starting point for a conversation.
A teacher could enter a student's information into this tool and have a conversation with the student about their achievement and their goals. More importantly, teachers will be able to print, save a copy, and share with a parent.
It’s freely available—any partner, any parent, or anybody who's not a partner can access it. We want to help start a conversation about where students are starting the year and where we're trying to get them by the end of the year. It’s all about setting rigorous expectations without setting kids up to fail.
Creating this tool was a cross-team effort. Can you share more about some of the research and collaboration that went into this project?
With MAP Growth Goal Explorer, we situate growth relative to average achievement for that grade and subject, based on the 2020 norms; to state proficiency cut scores, leveraging our linking studies; and to college readiness, which is leveraging ACT data. So we're leveraging a lot of our research within this tool.
But one of the things I'm most pleased with is that we didn't just build a research tool, we went out to our Professional Learning team and got their perspective. We also connected with our Partner Experience team and engaged with external consultants to make sure everything we were doing was with usability in mind.
The MAP Growth Goal Explorer is available now. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. The team is excited to make updates and developments as they receive feedback from teachers and families.
Erin Ryan joined NWEA as senior writer in 2018. A former teacher and student of education policy, she enjoys sharing stories and new ideas to support student learning.