School Scores: NWEA Testing Results

One of the initiatives Superintendent Cooper has undertaken since coming to New Britain was the implementation of NWEA testing software district wide. This tool has allowed both teachers and administrators far faster access to important student assessment data. It also is building our capacity, as a district, to make honest comparisons regarding student performance from year to year.

NWEA MAP Testing

The NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing is a standards based assessment tool that is highly adaptive. As students answer questions the test dials the difficulty of the assessment up or down, allowing the software to get a better understanding of the student’s current performance level rather than just whether or not they “passed” the test.

After students complete the test, feedback to the teacher is almost instantaneous. The teacher gets to see how well the student performed compared to both district and national averages. Teachers can also drill down deeper into the data to identify what specific skills a student has mastered and what skills are still deficient. This is a huge improvement over the prior standardized assessment, the CMTs, where data was not available until almost 8 months after the students had completed the test.

Banding and District Goals

Students are placed into academic “bands” based on their performance. At or Above Average includes students who are performing at the same level or better than the average student in their grade nation-wide. While this does not directly compare to old “grade level” standards it is a very important figure. This nation-wide average provides a detailed snapshot of all students taking the MAP test. The Lo Band consists of students who performed in the bottom third of the nation, below the 33rd percentile.

This year campuses adopted goals around the MAP testing results. Their goals were to increase the percentage of students in the At or Above Average category while decreasing the percentage of students in the Lo Band. This was the first year of using MAP testing and the goals that were set were ambitious, each school was attempting to increase students in the top band by 10% while reducing students in the low band by 10%.

Reading Scores

NWEA 1314 Data-Reading

The Fall to Spring NWEA MAP testing data for the 2013-2014 school year. Green – Met or exceeded district average. Yellow – Below district average. Red – No improvement or decrease in student performance.

The above chart shows the baseline Fall data and the Spring testing results. Boxes in Green are areas where performance exceeded the district average. Boxes in Yellow are where performance fell short of the district average. Boxes in red indicate where there was a negative result, for example, if the goal was to see a decrease and there was an increase, or if the goal was to see and increase and there was a decrease.

There is a lot that someone could take away from all this data. A few highlights that I noticed:

  • Almost all schools showed growth towards their goals.
  • Elementary schools showed some of the most significant gains.
  • Middle Schools (with the exception of HALS) showed the least growth.
  • 8 Schools either met or were within 3% of making their 10% goal for increasing students in the At or Above Average Band
  • Only 4 schools either met or were within 3% of making their 10% goal for decreasing the number of students in the Lo Band
  • This leads me to believe that moving students out of the Lo Band will require more targeted interventions.

Math Scores

NWEA 1314 Data-Math

The Fall to Spring NWEA MAP testing data for the 2013-2014 school year. Green – Met or exceeded district average. Yellow – Below district average. Red – No improvement or decrease in student performance.

Just like the reading data above, this shows the math scores from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014. When the math data is examined there are some interesting trends that stand out.

  • Far more schools were made their goal or were within reach of making their goal with the math assessments.
  • Across all grades students performed worse Math assessment at the beginning of the year than on the Reading assessment.
  • By the end of the year a gap still existed between reading and math, but it had narrowed significantly.
  • The trend of seeing the most significant growth in the elementary schools continued into the math data
  • The trend of seeing the least growth in the middle schools also continued.

Baseline Trends and Next Year

This was our first year with NWEA MAP testing. It will be very important to look next year at where students begin the year in terms of performance. Not only do we need to see this data broken down by school, but also by grade levels. That way we can see if students are carrying their growth forward into each successive grade. If our elementary schools can continue to be engines for change, pushing better prepared students into the middle schools each successive year, then we will see a huge improvement in our school performance over the next half a decade.

Meanwhile, we need to continue targetted interventions to identify and address the road blocks to success in our secondary schools.

Above is some very raw student data. It is important for the public to have access to the raw numbers so they can see when improvement happens. It also makes all parties, myself included, more accountable for the successes and failures of our district.

Disclaimer: This data was prepared by the Central Office Staff for the Board of Education. I further formatted the data by providing color coding. The commentary in this article does not reflect any opinion other than my own.

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