NWEA Testing in the Primary Grades

Hi Friends!
Guess what?!
I'm going to be a little controversial today.
I'm going to talk about...TESTING 
I know, I know, it can be a super-scary word. There's so much talk about how we're testing students too much, (and I completely agree with this) BUT, we never talk about the positive components of testing (yes, there are some). 
This is because the focus is always on the BIG standardized tests that do absolutely NOTHING to inform our instruction. Today, I want to share about an assessment that does exactly what it should. It measures student progress and informs instruction to meet the needs of our learners.

Have you heard of the NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment?

 For those of you who are not familiar with MAP, it's an online assessment that adapts to each child's learning level.  Throughout the assessment, when a child answers a question correctly, the questions get harder. As a child answers a question incorrectly, the questions get easier. The assessment adapts like this for every question. The result is that every child will have answered about 50% of the questions correctly and 50% incorrectly. Teachers will have data that shows where students are and what they are ready to learn within 24 hours of taking the test.

Now I know some of you are already thinking, this girl is crazy, kindergarteners can't take tests. They can't sit for more than 5 minutes. They don't even know how to use computers. They can't, they can't, they can't!!! 

Actually, they can
In fact, my little friends are quite remarkable and they are capable of anything, given the right supports

My goal is to share my experience with MAP in my kindergarten classroom, and encourage you to take a look at "testing" through a different perspective. I encourage you to focus on testing's purest intentions, which are to better understand our learner's needs and to inform instruction. 

 I piloted MAP with my kindergarteners during the 2012-2013 school year. At that point, I knew nothing about MAP. My principal told me that I was going to pilot it because he wanted to prove that, "if kindergarteners can do it, anyone can do it". The first year, we only gave the assessment two times (Winter and Spring). I was blown away with the amount of support that my district provided to pilot the assessment (wow this test must be a big deal, I thought!). I had at least 5 adults from different departments within the district to help me administer the test. Administering the test was cake. It was keeping up with the 25 little hands that was a bit more of a challenge. Thankfully, with 5 other adults, we were able to help our little friends adjust the volume, use the mouse pad, and re-login after they exited out of the test.
All in all, the testing itself was a success.

And so we tested...
which seemed like it should have been the hard part.

After the first test I had all this data, but I didn't really know how to look at it or how to use it.
I learned that in order to understand it, I literally had to just dive in (and yes, this task takes a considerable amount of time). 

There were all of these reports that seemed to have such valuable information but it was overwhelming to look at. As I  dabbled with the data, I learned to narrow my focus. This became key to my success in looking at the MAP data. 

The following school year,
I knew exactly what to expect when giving the test.  I also knew that I wasn't going to have the same supports that I had when I first piloted the assessment. I was able to prep my students by modeling and practicing how to use the Chromebooks and also by talking about what to do if they click out of the test, or can't hear the directions. The answer was to ALWAYS raise your hand and be patient! The Fall test is always a bit overwhelming with kindergarteners BUT they have to start somewhere and I truly believe the data is too good to pass up. 

 I also had a better idea of how I could utilize the MAP reports in planning differentiated instruction.  I am a big believer in small group instruction. I believe that our students are able to thrive much more in a small group setting where they receive  targeted instruction on skills at their level.  Once I figured out how to read the data, I couldn't get enough! I mean seriously, it is all laid out there for you. It tells you skills/standards to teach your kids AND it groups them for you! Planning for instruction has become easier (notice that I did not say "less time consuming") for me because MAP takes the guess work out.
I know exactly what my kids need. 

My goal is to share a short series of blog posts that highlight the successes and challenges I've experienced with the MAP test in my kindergarten classroom.

 I hope to share some ideas and tools to help you implement the MAP test with ease, use the data to better meet the needs of your students, and understand how to include the students in goal setting and meaningful conversations about their learning. 
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you! 
 If you have specific questions, please leave a comment and I'll try to include it in one of my upcoming posts! 
Have a fabulous week!! 


  1. Is this post sponsored by NWEA?

    1. No, this post is not sponsored by NWEA.

  2. Great post! I look forward to more! We do the goal setting in winter and spring and it really seems to help the kiddos with motivation. I'd love to hear how you use all of the reports and which one you think provides the most usable data! When you start digging, it's easy to get lost and sometime I walk away with a headache and uncertainty.

    1. Thanks Lauren! My 3rd post will be all about the data! :)

  3. I use NWEA with my kindergartners! I would like to know how do you use the reports for your small group instruction. Looking forward to your next post!

    1. Absolutely! My 3rd post will be all about how I use the data in small group instruction! :)

    2. this is the post I am looking for, about small group instruction :)

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