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District to MAP out new way to assess progress

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Back to School in Bullitt County

By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - While no scores were revealed, Lorraine McLaughlin felt pretty good about her performance on a sample test Tuesday evening.

The member of the Bullitt County Public School Board took a sample of the new Measures of Academic Progress assessment program, which will make its local debut this year.

Taking a reading exam for those in the 10th grade, McLaughlin laughed that the exam re-introduced her to some old friends, such as Shakespeare and Beowulf.

Board members had the opportunity to get a glimpse at the assessment program that will be implemented this school year.

It is also an assessment program that has educators more excited about its varied uses. It will replace the Think Link assessments conducted the past two years.

“We believe this will be the best thing for the students of Bullitt County for a long time,” said Greg Schultz, assistant superintendent for student learning.

During his quarterly academic update, Schultz went through some of the components of MAP.

“MAP is the next generation of assessment,” said Schultz.

Schultz said Think Link was a wonderful tool as it was the first time the district had assessments of student learning throughout the school year. With MAP, the testing will only be done twice a year and the results would be available within 24 hours.

The big picture is that teachers and administrators will have to take a totally different look at learning.

With jargon such as RIT and Lexile scale, students would be assessed in reading and math.

Schultz said there are certain scores needed to be ready for college or the workplace. The goal of the district is to get students to that level.

Once a student’s level is known, Schultz said his or her entire learning plan could be set up. Students may be learning about the same science subject but they could be given reading material based on their abilities.

The RIT and Lexile scores would stay with a student throughout their academic career as grades K-11 would be tested. Parents could see the progress or the lack of progress in certain areas.

Schultz said the reading level of the student is a key.

“If you cannot read, you cannot perform in life,” said Schultz.

In terms of teaching, Schultz said the program would group students automatically of the same RIT rating. There is a possibility that instead of teachers having a grade level, they may be teaching to similar students in the same RIT scale.

Superintendent Keith Davis said this was originally the plan of the primary program but that has slipped more back in line with grade levels.

It may come a day when there is no such thing as an Algebra I class. Instead, Schultz said, it would be a class with students of the same range.

A part of the academic puzzle often overlooked is the gifted students who might be bored with school.

David Marshall, director of secondary education, said the assessment would allow teachers to know those gifted students and will offer suggestions on materials to help challenge those students.

Using a bowling analogy, Schultz said teachers would no longer be able to “bowl down the middle” hoping to reach all the kids. Instead, there will be tools available to reach every child.

“This is what No Child Left Behind is all about,” said Schultz.

Schultz said he would not recommend the program if he wasn’t sure it would work. The cost is $142,000 annually, more than the $100,000 spent on Think Link.

For the first two years, Davis said federal stimulus money would pay for the assessment and the district would actually be able to save the $100,000 for other general fund uses.

The question brought up at the past two school board meetings centered on a same concern from Gary Wooldridge - how would it be implemented and what help would the teachers need to make it happen.

Marshall said about 100 people have been trained in MAP and each was given an opportunity to offer feedback. Of the response, he said 95 percent had been positive.

Other districts have been able to adopt the MAP and get trained in August. The first early release day on Aug. 19 would be an opportunity for teacher training. He said the implementation should not be difficult.

The first testing would be done at the end of August.

“I love Think Link but MAP goes much further,” said Marshall. “It will clearly show teachers what students need to learn.”

He said the MAP assessment would help the teachers know where to go next in helping a student learn.

Jan Stone, the district’s assessment and data research analyst, said the information would be very useful with the No Child Left Behind. She said the results would help teachers move students forward.

In terms of time spent by teachers, Davis said it would cut the testing assessment from three to two and it would offer immediate results with better information.

Roby principal Gayle Korfhage said the biggest advantage of MAP is that it identifies the instructional level of each child.

Terri Lewis, principal at Mount Washington Elementary, said it would be perfect for team teaching. She said grouping the students in like ranges would be an advantage.

Wooldridge, who voted against the change at the July 21 board meeting, said he liked doing more for the gifted students. He was just concerned for the teachers as many had just gotten used to the Think Link assessment.

“I know when teachers see it, they’re going to go ‘wow,’” said Schultz. “I have great faith in our teachers.”

Instructional coaches in the district, which Schultz believes are the best in the state, will play a key role in helping to implement the new program. Schultz said he hoped that would alleviate some of the concerns.

In looking at the advantages of the program, Schultz said he could confidently recommend that MAP is the best assessment for the students of the county.

While worried about the concerns of the teachers, Schultz said the number one goal of everyone in the district was student learning.

Davis said the feedback has been very positive. There have been some concerns about implementing the program this year but those who have been trained all saw the advantages.