March 23, 2005 - A new test within the Amphitheater Public Schools district is allowing students and teachers the chance to immediately see results, and is giving teachers the opportunity to individualize lesson plans.
The district began using the Measures of Academic Progress test, or MAP, in spring of 2003 as a way to evaluate students' individual levels of performance.
The test is given to students in grades three through nine twice a year to test reading and math skills in the fall and spring.
Each student is required by the district to take the exam, which is administered by a computer program and typically takes about 50 minutes. Results are normally available the next day, allowing immediate evaluation by the teachers, said Cathy Eiting, executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development for the district.
"It is a wonderful tool," Eiting said. It puts information "right at the teachers' fingertips."
That information is then broken into a "continuum of learning," referred to as DesCartes. DesCartes allows the teachers and principals to evaluate the data received by the exams and translate that information into learning needs and skill levels for students within the classroom.
MAP was started in 2002 by Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit organization facilitating education between kindergarten and 12th grade and running programs in more than 1,400 school districts and 43 states worldwide, said Gage Kingsbury, director of research for the association.
Typically, when an average assessment test is administered, the scores are given to the teachers with no real instruction on what to do next. Kingsbury said that is eliminated with the MAP and DesCartes method.
DesCartes tries to answer that "what do I do now" question, Kingsbury said.
While the exam is required by Amphi, the DesCartes method of interpreting the data is still in the process of development, Eiting said.
"We need training on how to use that data to guide instruction," Eiting said.
The special quality of MAP testing is that each student is essentially taking a different test, Eiting said, because the exam adapts to each student's level and subject knowledge.
The "self-leveling" test begins at a particular level depending on the student's grade, and either increases in difficulty or decreases depending on the student's needs, she said.
Once teachers recieve exam results, it is up to them to use the information as they see fit.
Eiting hopes they will become proficient at that as they receive proper training on how to adapt lesson plans and curriculum around the information received.
The results create a "training module," she said.
The exam is a way for teachers and school districts to make sure that students are making progress and that those whose skills are lacking for the grade level they're in get additional help, something Holly Rasche, director of client enrollment at the Northwest Evaluation Association, said is very important.
The intention of the program is to get the testing information into teachers' hands so "they can understand where they need to be and then close the achievement gap," Rasche said.
The MAP test is aligned with Arizona's state standards. The testing is not free, and it's paid for out of the operations budget for the district, Eiting said. Any additional training needed for further educating teachers about the program has already been established within the planning schedules.
Coronado K-8 School sixth-grade science teacher Liesl Scheffel has been using the MAP data in her classroom, and she said she is impressed with it.
The DesCartes method allows teachers a varying level of teaching options, making sure no child is left out or forgotten in the teaching process, Scheffel said.
While devising individual lesson plans for the varying needs of each student within the classroom may be time consuming, Scheffel is convinced of the advantages of doin gso, and is certain the results far outweigh the expense of time.
"The lessons I have done this with, the students just take off," Scheffel said.