What’s the story with the data?

student data

As I proctor my students taking the NWEA Science MAP test, I notice blank stares at the screens. Students are slowly absorbing the random test questions. Trying to put the words into a context, thinking back through classroom experiences. Attempting to find the correct answer. We have been studying severe weather events in class. Now the students are being bombarded by questions from physics to biology to geology. Some of the questions hit directly on units covered in our classroom, others were studied in previous years and some of the material has not been taught to my students yet (In curriculum for 8th Grade). I wonder: Will the results show that students grew their science knowledge? Are my teaching methods preparing my students for this type of assessment? Is this assessment meaningful for my students?

As the results come in I find that 72% of my students hit their NWEA Projected Growth Targets. Well that doesn’t seem bad. 7 out of 10 students in my class would hit the expected growth. But did my instruction garner these results? and Why do I feel the 72% should be higher? These are the hard questions to answer. I feel that many of the questions I observe from over the shoulder of a student taking a test are disconnected from my teaching. From the random sample observed, I did notice a few questions that go directly with our instruction. Many of the questions were totally disconnected from any of the units taught this year in seventh grade. If my students correctly answered these questions the credit should go to them, not my teaching since it was never covered in my class. 72% seems low because it is a C on most grading scales, I feel I am better than a C teacher. How can any test measure the effectiveness of teaching when it is not directly connected to the content taught in class? MAP does seem to measure a student’s ability in a subject matter and their growth over time. This could be tied to teaching but mainly is students learning ability.

I teach the way I have been trained. I teach units. Ideas are introduced with global experiences. Lessons are organized so students can learn related ideas together. This method allows students to make connections in their learning. Ideas seem to flow together naturally. Light and sound are taught together in a unit on wave energy. Cells are studied at the same time as genetics and plants. Students like the flow and can dive deeply into content with the connections. Standardized tests seem to forget this concept. Questions jump all over the place. The questions have no context or connections for the students to anchor their understanding. Simple reason why Jay Leno’s segments of “Jay Walking” are so funny and popular.

Should I change my teaching to be more random? It might help students think before jumping at the first thought that enters their mind.

My students hate the MAP test. They feel it is a waste of time. Many commented about how they had no clue on how to answer certain questions. Some felt frustrated during the test and gave up on trying when they encountered questions that had content that was never taught to them. Are these test necessary? Aren’t there better ways to show students are learning?

When we really look at the data what story does it tell?

3 thoughts on “What’s the story with the data?

  1. Actually, your results sound reasonable. MAP is a norm-referenced test, not criterion referenced. Your advanced students are probably seeing questions they have yet to study in high school, your struggling students are probably still working on 6th grade. I would be happy with 72% meeting goals. Especially if your advanced students are meeting goals which is often hard to do. Don’t look at it as a grade, it doesn’t correlate that way. Sounds like you are doing the right thing. Be sure to let data guide your instruction, and then let your teacher’s intuition take over!

  2. Todd,
    This is not on you. Your students have been through a month of testing. They are mentally worn out from a bunch of tests that have no meaning to them. All this testing means nothing to them and everything to you and your evaluation and your district and their grade. There is no buy in for them. They did as well as they did because they care about you and did their best. A month of testing is just cruel and unusual punishment. By my calculations the students in the State of MI lost nearly 8000 student school years in testing this year (and this only counts the mstep). Just think of how much more your students would have gained by just being class. Your first line says it all “I notice blank stares at the screens.” They are done. You district needs to eliminate this test and decide being in the classroom is better. We need to stop weighing the pig. You are a good teacher. Don’t let this get you down.

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