MAPS adds NWEA to strengthen assessment process

Students at the Manistee Area Public Schools will soon be adding Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing to its assessment program to help better evaluate student performance.

Students at the Manistee Area Public Schools will soon be adding the obnline Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing to its assessment program to help better evaluate student performance.

MANISTEE — The bottom line for every school district in the state is to put procedures in place to get students learn at their maximum potential.

That isn’t any different at Manistee Area Public Schools where school officials have put student success as the maximum priority.

Students are put through a series of assessments to help prepare them for the state mandated M-STEP testing, but to also see where they may need additional instructional assistance.

The administrators and board of education will add the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) to their assessment process. MAPS currently does an Interim Assessment Process (IAP) and the state mandated M-STEP testing to evaluate its students.

Superintendent Ron Stoneman has been a big advocate of moving in the direction to NWEA.

“MAP assessments compare a child’s instructional level to other grade level students on a national basis,” Stoneman told parents in a district-wide letter. “They also measure academic growth throughout the school year as well as year to year in areas of math, reading and Language usage. The assessments will be taken on a laptop or iPad.”

Jefferson Elementary School principal Andy Huber and technology director Ken Blakey-Shell said all the plans are in place to roll out the program.

“Our plan has been to release the information, as we have been preparing for it by getting our staffs trained and up to speed,” said Huber.

Huber said as an administrative team they have been talking and learning about NWEA and working with the staff to create the best model for using it this year.

“I really like how everyone is on the same page,” said Huber. “Everyone is buying into getting it going this year, so we can hit the ground running next year.”

Blakey-Shell said this will give them another level of testing.

“We are adding in the NWEA that some of the other county schools are already doing,” he said. “It basically is an assessment where our kids are academically and what they are ready to learn. It is a also going to provide a really good growth measure.”

Stoneman implemented this plan in his previous district at Redford Union Schools.

“He has some practical experience on what works really well and what doesn’t,” Blakey-Shell said. “He has seen how this can transform things when done properly.”

Blakey-Shell said the district will now do the interim assessments, state assessments and the NWEA.  He said there is a detailed report for the parents to review the new process at the schools website that can found at  maps.manistee.org.

“The interim, state and NWEA assessments kind of fit together and compliment each other,” Blakey-Shell said. “That is an important part of the process, so people just don’t think we are over testing kids.”

Blakey-Shell pointed out that the IAP worked really well within a grade level or content areas.

“However, it didn’t really tell that teacher the student is missing skills from a previous year. That is where the NWEA comes in because it actually assesses the whole assessable spectrum of what a student does and doesn’t know,” said Blakey-Shell.

An example is the reason a student doesn’t get an algebra concept is because they missed out understanding things in pre-algebra.

“There are a lot of things that are really good with that at all the different grade levels,” said Blake-Shell. “Because we then set up interventions and set up parents with more information about these are the areas where they can work on it with their child. This is where the one-to-one comes in as we can provide a lot more resources to families. When that device goes home we can have more resources to that particular child’s needs.”

Huber said when they knew before if a child was below grade level in math, they would practice those grade level skills in a generalized manner or reviewing material.

“Now if they are below grade level in math, the specific skills they are missing can be targeted and worked on at home or in school during intervention time,” he said.

Huber said the testing will also show the kids that don’t need the work in that area.

“We plan to see other students take off as well,” he said. “Before it was easy to say their grade level is fine, but now we can give them advanced work.”

Huber said they plan to test twice this year on NWEA because starting on the program halfway through the year. Next year they will implement three tests in the full schedule.

Blakey-Shell said another important component is triangulation of data.

“By having these three assessments it allows you to compare results from all three,” he said.

He said now they can compare and get much better data that will back up each the results of each assessment.

Huber said this is going to change the culture of things.

“When I was a kid testing was really something to judge what you could or couldn’t do,” he said. “Assessment now is about information to drive instruction and student growth.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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