Measures of Academic Progress Test

Embracing, and Measuring, Student Growth

At Des Moines Public Schools, we embrace growth. In other words, we want to know whether our students are making gains academically throughout the school year. Because we value our students’ growth in the classroom, this year we begin a new and improved way to measure their progress.

Besides standardized tests required by the state, DMPS students will take another this year for the first time. The Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP test, developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association is an online assessment aligned with the Common Core standards that represents a timelier tool for both teachers and students.

Be sure to view this video and read on for more about the MAP test:

“The Iowa Assessment mandated by state law is an end-of-year summative assessment,” said Mary Grinstead, the district’s Director of Research and Data Management. “It provides good information, but there’s a slow turnaround. MAP is a periodic adaptive assessment that lends itself to student goal-setting and enables teachers to adjust and differentiate instructions in real time.”

Students will take the MAP test three times per year:

  • once shortly after the school year begins,
  • again at various times between December 12 to January 31, and
  • a final time near the end of the school year, between April 24 to May 19.

The results and information from MAP will measure student growth as well as proficiency. What’s the distinction?

“Growth answers whether a student is actually learning – are they gaining knowledge throughout the school year?” according to DMPS Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart. “Proficiency, on the other hand, looks at how well a student understands the material at their grade level. The use of MAP will help us better understand both measures, and as a result better meet the educational needs of each student.”

MAP is a research-based instrument with a built-in personalized feature that adjusts to individual student learning levels. The difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers the previous one. If the student answers correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier, enabling teachers to more accurately gauge student learning and pinpoint where breakdowns occur.

Before deciding to adopt MAP districtwide a pilot was administered last year at McCombs Middle School. Principal Nancy Croy reported widespread positive impressions.

“The test is untimed and that takes pressure off of the students,” she said. “Also, it’s computerized and that appeals to this digital generation. And it’s growth-based so students can measure their own progress based on their MAP results. Teachers like it because the results can inform their instruction throughout the year.”

In other words, MAP delivers data while there’s still time to make a difference in a student’s progress. Test results are available almost overnight.

In addition to MAP, the Iowa Assessment will still be given to all DMPS students in grades 3-11 each spring, in accordance with state law.