Benchmark testing; measuring academic growth

Published 8:37 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jean McDermott

President of Pacelli Catholic Schools

When I was a student, many years ago, I remember that one time a year when it was time to take the Iowa Basic Skills Test. Our teachers would begin to sharpen the number two pencils and put reading books in large tubs to occupy our time when we were done with the tests. Those days are a thing of the past. Students of Pacelli Catholic Schools now take the NWEA Measure of Academic Progress, or MAP Growth test, three times each year to monitor academic achievement and growth throughout the school year and over a their academic career.

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MAP Growth tests are computer adaptive assessments.  They  begin with a question appropriate for the student’s grade level, then dynamically adapts throughout the test in response to student performance. This progressive refinement allows MAP Growth to challenge top performers without overwhelming students whose skills are below grade level.

Kindergarten and first grade students take a test in math and reading that is read to them through headphones on a computer. With a special focus on the unique developmental needs of the youngest learners, including audio support, MAP Growth K-2 is an adaptive interim assessment that identifies a child’s starting point as early as possible and tracks growth over time. MAP Growth K-2 also provides pre-literacy and number skills screening measures for early identification and intervention, and specific skill measures that can be used to assess mastery. Students in grades 2-5 take three tests, one each in math, reading, and language usage. Students in grades 6 – 12 also take a science assessment. All tests are taken on computer, are multiple choice, and have no time limit for completion.

Teachers have access to individual student scores the day after the test is completed. Each student’s test results compare them to their classmate’s average as well as the normative score from all students who have taken the tests nationwide. This allows parents, students and teachers to monitor how students are doing compared to their peers at Pacelli, to students across the nation,  and to themselves as they monitor their individual growth.

Within the school, test data from each benchmark testing session is used by teachers to set goals for classes as well as by students who select and self-monitor individual goals. This allows students to manage and be in control of their own learning.  Test results are broken down into standards.  Teachers are able to monitor the data to see if there are any gaps in student learning and then adjust instruction to fill those gaps.  Individual student scores are also broken down to identify which students need more help in different areas. The data also points out areas of strength which allows teachers to modify instruction to accelerate or extend the curriculum in that area.

Parental support is important and appreciated when students prepare for a testing session. Parents can encourage their child to take the test seriously, have them eat a good breakfast, and send them off to school with positive support to “Do your best!”

If you are interested in learning more about Pacelli Catholic Schools visit our website at, email or call 507-437-3278. Registration for the 2018-19 school year is now open.