Standardized tests aren’t like they used to be. Students in the past were accustomed to dedicating days each spring to taking standardized tests to gauge where they were compared to other students across the state and country.
Teachers would prepare their class for weeks to anticipate what might be on the test. The students filled in bubbles on sheets with their No. 2 pencil. Results came in the summer when the students had already moved on to the next grade.
The most recent test taken by students in kindergarten to eighth grade in the Diocese of Little Rock was called TerraNova.
Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, the diocese adopted a new assessment called NWEA MAP Growth (Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress). Kindergarteners and first graders are tested on reading fluency and math. Second graders also are tested on language. Additionally, students in grades 3-8 are tested in science.
The online tests are given three times a year — fall, winter and spring — and are personalized through artificial intelligence. If a student incorrectly answers a series of questions, the test will adjust and give the student other questions they might be more proficient in. The diagnostic tool provides the teachers instant results to see where students are lagging behind. Conversely, students who excel can be given more challenging questions to accurately see where they stand.
According to NWEA, the “computer-adaptive assessment” “measures what students know and what they are ready to learn next. By dynamically adjusting to each student’s performance, (it) creates a personalized assessment experience that accurately measures performance — whether a student performs on, above or below grade level.”
Unlike previous national aptitude tests used by the diocese, NWEA MAP can be given in Spanish if needed.
Another plus is that students in kindergarten to second grade can be screened for dyslexia with NWEA MAP. In the classroom, teachers can tailor computer apps after the assessment to address students’ needs.
Associate Superintendent Ileana Dobbins said, “It’s the best, as far as testing, that we have ever had.”
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