Making the Grade

Making the Grade
Posted on 10/31/2018
from Dr. Larry Nelson, Assistant Superintendent

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education administers tests annually using the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) and End-of-course exams (EOC) to assess student learning. These tests are among multiple metrics the state uses to measure student progress, proficiency, and college and career readiness.

Required assessments are administered annually in the following content areas: English language arts and mathematics for grades 3-8, science for grades 5 and 8, and end-of-course exams in English II, Algebra I, Biology, and American Government in high school. State assessment results also include the MAP Alternative (MAP-A) tests, which are given to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who meet grade-level and eligibility criteria. MAP-A tests are given in ELA and math for grades 3-8 and 11 and in science for grades 5, 8 and 11.  Student achievement on these assessments is among several factors used in school district’s annual performance reports to determine accreditation under the Missouri School Improvement Program.

School districts typically receive MAP and EOC results over the summer and parents receive an individual student report on their child in September.  However, this year the assessment results have been placed on hold and will not be released until the end of November. Although these large scale assessments are important to providing insight into each child’s progress as well as each school’s, Mexico Public Schools relies on internal and ongoing assessment practices to make daily instructional decisions. The i-Ready online assessment is used to identify a students’ strengths and weaknesses in reading and mathematics.  

The i-Ready diagnostic assessment is administered three times a year (fall, winter, spring) to all students in grades 1-8 and twice a year to Kindergarten students (winter and spring).  The reading diagnostic assesses skills in the areas of phonological awareness, phonics, high-frequency words, vocabulary and comprehension. The math diagnostic assesses skills in the areas of number and operations, measure and data, algebra and algebraic thinking and geometry.  Once students have completed the assessment, the results are used to provide customized and individual instruction to meet the students’ needs. The goal is to design instruction that supports students in meeting grade level expectations. The elementary schools and middle school use the i-Ready to data to develop SMART goals in the areas of literacy and math.  The assessment results are used to determine actions steps as well as growth in a specific area.

The assessments best suited to guide improvements in student learning are the ones teachers administer on a regular basis in their classrooms.  These include formative strategies that provide crucial information about what students understand at that given moment and what they don’t. Teachers can use these daily assessment strategies to determine if further instruction is necessary as well as an integral part of the instruction process.  

Assessments are a critical component in improving educational outcomes and ensuring each students readiness for the next level of learning. While last year’s state assessment results are still unknown, our teachers and leaders continue to use best practices with internal, formative, and diagnostic assessments.