Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2006

District’s new testing program targets improvements

August 31, 2006

New technology at De Soto USD 232 schools this year is giving teachers and students instant feedback on learning success.

A national standard testing program called Measure of Academic Progress is being implemented in schools throughout the district.

Coordinator of learning services Kim Barney said the MAP tests would give schools a more detailed picture of what students are learning.

"It's not a standardized test that everybody has the same questions on," she said. "It will adapt to students' abilities. If they get the answer right it will have questions that are more difficult. If they get it incorrect, it will give them easier questions."

The MAP tests take about an hour for each subject and are administered online. The tests are not timed, but Barney said it takes about an hour for the student to finish the test. This year, the De Soto district is testing in math, reading and language usage. They'll give the test in the fall, winter and spring to every student in the district. They'll also give the tests to students attending summer school.

Barney said the MAP testing is less disruptive to the learning process since it takes less time than some other standardized tests. She said the students could easily access their test from any computer with online access at the school. The teachers have the results within a matter of days.

"Teachers will be able to view results quickly, which will make this powerful because we want to know what the students understand right away," she said.

Barney said unlike other tests, the MAP would provide "longitudinal" data for individual students and whether or not certain programs, like tutoring, are really helping.

"You can get into individualized levels of information, and it will be a great tool to help our teachers differentiate instruction," she said. "We really are attempting to focus on results."

Barney said the results of the tests would be shared with parents during conferences. After the test is administered multiple times throughout the year, the MAP test can even provide charts on a particular student's progress.

Other districts in the area have also switched to the MAP test. In the Shawnee Mission district, director of assessment and testing Bob Winkler said all schools in that district are taking the test this year after piloting the program in a few schools last year.

Winkler said that while state assessment tests determine whether or not a school makes its adequate yearly progress goal, it doesn't say which programs or students aren't making the grade. MAP testing gives teachers an idea of which students are having trouble and which programs are successful.

"It's hard to evaluate programs when you test the same students every two to three years," Winkler said.

He said if students were to take a special reading class, other assessments or tests wouldn't evaluate their reading skills for another year or two. With MAP, the same students are tested several times throughout the year.

Barney said while the MAP tests can indicate whether students are having trouble in school, it would not be used as the sole basis for determining special needs students.

"We use multiple data points to make those types of programming decisions," she said.

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