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SHEPHERDSVILLE – One year ago the Bullitt County School Board made the decision to spend approximately $12 a child – or $139,900 – on a learning assessment tool titled Measures of Academic Progress created by the Northwestern Evaluation Association.
District Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Greg Schultz believes that was money very well spent when it comes to improving individual student learning.
“I truly believe in this program,” Schultz said at a special-called meeting Monday night, during which the Board discussed the district’s 2009-2010 math and reading MAP test results.
Schultz helped board members better understand how MAP data are being used to improve teaching skills and student learning. The assessment program is unique in that it gives teachers a detailed look at areas in which students might be struggling, instead of simply assigning a rank or score to a student’s exam, such as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished. Results can be made available to teachers in as little as 24 hours. The results can also be made available upon request to parents who want to see how his or her child is progressing.
“It beats the heck out of sitting back and waiting for the state assessment to see if you’re doing things right or wrong,” Board member Sammy Allen said.
The MAP tests, which are given at each school at least twice a year in math and reading, revealed overall that the district’s students last school year were reading at a fairly average rate in comparison to national trends. Students in sixth, ninth and tenth grades were below national average while first and fifth graders exceeded national averages. The results also showed that a large number of the district’s sixth graders weren’t being challenged enough in reading.
The reading portion of the test uses two mechanisms for measuring reading levels. One is known as a RIT score – or Rausch Unit score – and is an equal interval scale. The other measurement mechanism is the Lexile score. Almost any reading material can be assigned a Lexile score, so teachers can match up a student’s Lexile reading level with an appropriate piece of literature to help maximize classroom learning and appropriately challenge each child.
The test revealed that overall the district’s students struggle in math, especially at the elementary level. According to the results, eight of the 12 elementary school third through fifth graders scored below the national average in math. Two of the district’s six middle schools and two of the district’s three high schools scored below national average. Bullitt East was the only high school to score above the national average by 3.1 percentage points. However, the data also show that BEHS had the largest number of high school students who scored both below typical growth and below projected proficiency.
Schultz said that the 2009-2010 results are already available to principals and teachers, and will help place students in appropriate classes during the upcoming school year, especially in high school. Many of the district’s instructional coaches have met with teachers to help familiarize them with the MAP data and how to use it to its full potential.
For the first time, Bullitt County teachers have information that could help contour their lessons to fit very specific students’ needs, Schultz said.
But with a new wealth of data and information comes greater teacher responsibility. Now that teachers can access the detailed results, they will be expected to create lessons that can reach all students – including those on different reading levels. That could include providing different reading materials for each lesson such as professional journals, textbooks and articles whereas in the past a teacher might have provided the same text book or reading material for all students, regardless of different learning styles or levels of understanding.
“Are you planning your lesson without knowing anything about your kids? If so, you’re setting yourself up for disaster,” Schultz told the Board.
Board member Gary Wooldridge said he was concerned that teachers receive appropriate support when being held to a higher standard of formulating more complex lesson plans with little to no additional time.
“I think we have to help our teachers with the time element,” he said.
Schultz said some teachers are already embracing the MAP program with open arms and are excited while others need a bit more encouragement. And the results can be especially confusing for principals, who have access to 134 different data reports.
“It’s just a changing mindset that will take a little while to catch on,” he said.
But Superintendent Keith Davis said the expectation for Bullitt County’s educators remains the same. Teachers must adapt with the times as better data become available that can benefit students on a more individual level.
“We don’t want to kill anybody but this is a hard job. Teaching is a hard job,” Davis said.
Schultz hopes the district can offer the MAP science assessment in the future, but that would include additional costs to the district. He said, for now, principals and teachers are already working to process the vast amounts of available data from the math and reading assessments.