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Measuring academic progress in the Juneau School District

Posted: December 5, 2012 - 1:00am

In October, I shared in this column that higher academic standards have been adopted in the Juneau School District outlining what we want each student to know at each grade level.

I wrote a bit about one program — Math in Focus — that provides materials and training to further support elementary teachers in delivering instruction that aligns with these new, higher math standards.

Those things I described are on the “input” side of our work. But, our vision that each one, every one of our students will graduate prepared to succeed beyond high school doesn’t stop there. Our teachers use a variety of assessment tools to also check on the “output” side of our work — student learning.

A few years ago the Juneau School District began using a tool called Measures of Academic Progress or “MAP” testing. These computerized tests are given at the beginning, middle and end of the school year to measure individual student achievement and progress. MAP is used across the United States and in a number of other Alaska districts.

Students are tested in Math, Reading and Language Usage. Younger students wear headphones to hear the questions; older students read questions displayed on the screen. As the student answers questions, the level of difficulty automatically adjusts to the student’s performance. If questions continue to be answered correctly, the level increases; if answers are incorrect, the questions become easier. Students work at their own pace with no grade limits or time limits. MAP results show the academic level at which each student is performing, as well as academic growth from test to test.

Unlike many other assessments, MAP results are available to teachers and students right after a test is given. Getting quick results gives students immediate, constructive feedback and provides teachers with valuable details about specific skills in a subject area. For example, a student’s math results show competency broken down by areas of numeration, measurement, computation, geometry, etc. This way teachers can accurately identify specific strengths and possible gaps in learning and use that information and strengthen daily lessons to meet the needs of kids.

Sharing results with individual students promotes learning by celebrating progress and encouraging personal bests, much like an athlete or musician in an adjudicated performance. It helps students take ownership for their own learning.

MAP information is shared at parent-teacher conferences. It is also available anytime by asking a student’s teacher, or through our online student information system, PowerSchool. To see MAP results for reading, math and language usage on PowerSchool, parents can visit https://ps.jsd.k12.ak.us/public/, log in and look for TEST HISTORY and then for MAP.

Families can access additional information by visiting juneauschools.org and linking to A Blog From the Juneau School District to Help Families Understand the MAP Assessment and Provide Resources to Support Your Children At Home. Here students and parents can find a variety of online resources to use at home. Interactive math and reading websites with games and videos are all designed to help at just the right level for each child.

• Gelbrich is the Superintendent of the Juneau School District.

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