• A. Soriano

How BEST Academy Connects Assessments to Students

Updated: Feb 8

What is the NWEA Map Assessment?

The national nonprofit assessment organization, NWEA's Measure of Academic Progress or MAP Assessments are researched-based assessments to measure academic growth. Every year, 4,400,000 students take the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, assessment in subjects to include Reading, Language Usage, Math, Science.

The California DOE and the US Department of Education have approved the use of local assessments for spring 2021. NWEA MAP Growth is a flexible option the evidence-based data needed to support students and address unfinished learning.

BEST Academy students take the NWEA MAP Assessments throughout the year during the months outlined below.

  • Fall - October

  • Winter - February

  • Spring - June

The NWEA Map Assessments are important to our students and their program of instruction for the following reasons outlined below.

  • Personalized learning and instruction

  • Pinpoint areas of need

  • Confidence and social emotional needs

  • Allocation of funding, efforts, and time (professional development, content customization, alignment of instruction)

  • Alignment of priorities for customization of online learning

NWEA Map Key Findings

Just this month, Rand Cooperation published an article entitled, Divergent and Inequitable Teaching and Learning Pathways During (and Perhaps Beyond) the Pandemic.

While primarily relating to traditional schools, the published Rand report, claims students who spent most of the 2020-21 school year in distance learning were more likely to fall behind academically and to be absent than students who spent most of the year on campus.

Earlier this year, a network of California districts known as CORE analyzed fall NWEA assessment results for students in 18 districts, including Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland, all of which serve high numbers of English learners and students from low-income families. Policy Analysis for California Education, a think tank, wrote up the results, noting that it was one of the first attempts to break down differences in learning during the pandemic according to family income and language status.

According the results, fifth graders in the California sample of 50,000 students, for example, lost roughly two points on NWEA MAP assessments in reading and math, while in a typical year, they would have gained 10 points.

The scores of disadvantaged fourth-graders grew at a slower rate in English language arts, while peers from wealthier families gained more than they would have in a typical year. Large gaps in reading between English learners and other students appeared in fourth, seventh and eighth grade MAP tests.

It’s especially important for BEST Academy to examine the data by language status because we see different patterns, and much of our school-wide student data contradicts the Policy Analysis for California Education's results,

For example, BEST Academy students results from the mid-year NWEA Math Assessments demonstrate significant Academic Year growth in grade levels outlined in the graph below, but we understand we need to align instructional focus and interventions in grades 3, 4, 5, and 9.

BEST Academy uses NWEA Map Assessments to measure student performance in math, science, language arts, and reading.
BEST Academy's top performing grade levels in mid-year Math Assessments

We see similar trends in reading and science and are proud to share BEST Academy student's top performing grade level percentages below. It should be noted, while our 12th grade students are within weeks of graduating, they are consistently pushing academic year reading growth, which will strongly benefit their post-secondary college and career pathways.

BEST Academy's top performing grade levels in mid-year Reading Assessments

Our student's NWEA mid-year Science assessment results were especially nice to see when we dove deep into the benchmark data. Seeing the high percentages of academic year growth in grades 3, 7, 9, 10, and 11 validated our recent full accreditation status by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which allow offerings University of California A-G course offerings to include biology, chemistry, and physics.

BEST Academy's top performing grade levels in mid-year Science Assessments

Since BEST Academy is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, we can offer A-G approved courses that fulfill the requirement of the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems.

WASC Accreditation allows college-bound students at BEST Academy a track to higher education through fulfilling the A-G requirements. The rigor of the A-G courses will be reflected on the student’s transcript as having fulfilled these requirements for each course of completion.

While we understand we will always have areas to improve on, the benchmark data gives us relevant information to ensure we challenge our learners to meet their best potential.

Using the Student Performance Data to Inform and Customize Instruction

We made a very strong commitment to administer the NWEA MAP assessment. Teachers are expected to use the assessments to plan their instruction to meet the learning needs of students, and also to assess whether students learned what they were expected to learn.

The pre and the mid-year assessments give our teaching staff some information about where kids are in those skills, and help to inform the planning, and the post assessment gives us information about how successfully our instruction was. We can continue to use that information to inform and base specified interventions going forward, and also design our professional learning for ongoing improvement.

This year, BEST Academy has been building professional learning communities to include teachers, counselors and administrators who meet regularly to review and improve instructional practices and customize online learning paths for students to include intervention and acceleration in specified subjects and topics bases on student assessment results.

Data analysis is really thinking about what the curriculum is asking for, and then going a step further, which is, what do we want our students to understand? What are we looking for them to achieve in that period of time? How are we going to measure it? And then what happens when students are not achieving it?

Data analysis is especially relevant to BEST Academy's educational program because we offer a wide variety of online curriculum options to accommodate each learner's style and educational pathway. We understand every student learns differently and pay very close attention to student progress within core curriculum but also in the wide array of online programs geared toward intervention and acceleration in student learning. Unlike many online schools and programs, we are not locked into a specific curriculum provider and have the freedom to choose the best possible curriculum options for each student. This allows significant acceleration in learning, and the benchmark data is essential to truly quantify the validity of each student's online program and educational pathway.

We can also see that there is a high level of attention to, let’s say, the social-emotional learning environment. A lot of our teachers have talked about the way in which they see relationship-building happening in the online learning space and confidence in learning plays a key role in moving students forward in their learning pathways.

On the flip side, there are areas for opportunity, the focus on standards and the objectives of those lessons. This provides a detailed picture in forming plans to really accelerate and improve the learning that’s happening in the student's online learning environment.

BEST Academy administrators, counselors and teachers collaborate in school-wide professional development sessions. These meetings, held three times during the school year, provide school administrators, counselors, and teachers with opportunities to discuss a wide range of data and topics with various administrators. The ultimate goal is to generate ideas on how to build on student’s strengths and provide supports.

Addressing Student Social Emotional Needs through Confidence Building and Recognition

This is a big part in helping kids have the motivation to learn. If students are behind in learning, it’s OK. They are not alone and we let them know that. We explain to students and families that progress does take time.

We build confidence in our student's ability to learn through student recognition videos and announcements that highlight student academic performance. You can subscribe to the BEST Academy Info Channel to gain access to videos or check out the latest BEST Academy student recognition video here.

When we empower students with confidence to build the skills and foundational knowledge, they are not only a part of the learning process, but are truly leading the charge toward goal attainment they better understand the steps and milestones required to build solid college and career pathways.

Some of the informal initial feedback from students, families, and teachers provided a high-level of attention to the social-emotional learning environment. A lot of students and teachers have talked about the way in which they see relationship-building happening in the online learning environment through ongoing discussion of student interests, goals, academic progress, and areas of focus lead to necessary milestones that forge the college and career pathways for students. The NWEA Map assessment data is a foundational starting point in developing the individualized learning paths that lead to student success.

Connection to Students and Families

Aside from student recognition announcements, we hold assessment-driven informational meetings with families to fully review student benchmark assessment performance data. We are fortunate to have engaged families and community members with large participation in school-wide committees and informational sessions. In just one of our hosted NWEA Parent Information Meetings last week, we had over 125 parents participate in live discussion. Students, parents, and families are encouraged to participate, ask questions and engage in the data analysis and instructional planning process for BEST Academy students.

During the informational meetings, we connect to families by reviewing data, establishing goals, providing feedback and tips for supporting students in both online learning and gaining the maximum fidelity from taking the assessment.

Our connection to families provide a strong connecting message to students: If they are dedicated to learning and they are able to connect that with their own goals, it is definitely possible to make really impressive learning in a short amount of time.

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