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Data for Measuring Growth: Poway Unified School District
Harvard Family Research Project
Voices From the Field
As told to the FINE team by Linda Foote, Technology Integration Specialist for Poway Unified School District, this article discusses how data helps students create their learning goals and helps parents create family goals to support their children’s learning. The article also shares ideas for how to build community around data.
Who had a better year? The student who scored the highest on a standardized test at the end of the school year, or, the student who achieved the most growth on that test from the beginning of the year to the end? In recent years, parents and teachers in Poway Unified School District have addressed this question by redefining student success in terms of growth.
Poway Unified School District extends over 100 square miles in the northwestern section of San Diego County. Poway Unified serves approximately 34,000 students, the majority of whom are White, followed by Asian (16%) and Hispanic (11%), with around 10% of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch.
In Poway, students in grades K–8 are assessed three times a year—fall, winter, and spring—using the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association.1 The MAP assessment is based on Item Response Theory.2 In this computerized testing approach, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers all the previous questions. The final score is a gauge of a child's achievement level irrespective of grade level.
The benefit of an individualized testing system is that it gives parents insight into specific aspects of a child’s learning and guides parents in how they can best support their child through learning activities in the home throughout the year. For example, unlike a standardized test that might reveal only that a 1st grader is functioning at the 99th percentile, the MAP system illuminates whether this child is at a 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade level or beyond, and the particular areas of his or her strengths.
Fall: At the fall parent–teacher conference, parents receive their child’s scores on the MAP assessment taken at the beginning of the school year as well as their child’s self-identified goals and strategies. Parents also use this as an opportunity to create “family goals” to support the student’s learning at home (e.g., setting a limit for time on video games, creating a time and space for homework and reading). Goal-setting helps children and parents see the connections between what children can do and what they need to do to reach the next level of success.
Winter, Spring, and Summer: In the winter and spring, score reports are sent home so that the family can track their child’s progress. To avoid the summer slump, parents can identify in the spring exactly what their child is on the cusp of learning so that learning can continue and be reinforced after school lets out. Throughout the year, parents are able to access a district website to see the types of academic activities their child is expected to accomplish at the next level of learning, empowering parents to tailor activities that their child can complete in the home for that particular learning level. This website has extensive resources for parents, especially at the elementary school level, to work on learning projects with their child. Before this system was put into place, parents would often purchase workbooks with grade-level activities for their children at local stores; but the workbooks wouldn’t necessarily match a specific child’s learning needs. Students have more success when the work they do at home is tailored to their individual strengths and needs.
In order for a differentiated data learning system such as this to work, it is important that parents, teachers, administrators, and students come together around data, agree on its purpose, and share data openly. Poway has worked hard to build this data community through a variety of strategies:
To learn more, visit: http://www.powayusd.com/projects/EdTechCentralnew
For sample activities that students and parents can use to help set goals, visit: http://www.powayusd.com/projects/EdTechCentral/MAPS/ES101Pages/PDFWord/SampleGoalPlans.pdf
You can also visit the parent portal at: http://www.powayusd.com/projects/edtechcentral/MAPS/Parents.htm
This resource is part of the October 2010 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family involvement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the FINE Newsletter Archive, visit www.hfrp.org/FINENewsletter.
These slides illustrate the difference between measuring student success in terms of the student’s rankings compared to other students (slide 1), and measuring the student’s growth from the previous assessment (slide 2). In slide 1, the girl on the right appears to be performing at a lower level than the girl on the left, yet in slide 2 you can see that the girl on the right has actually made bigger academic gains since the last assessment.
The above slides were part of a June, 2009, seminar entitled, Poway's Way: Students and Teachers "Owning" Assessments that Truly Measure the Growth of Learning. In this archived teleconference, the Superintendent of Poway Unified School District explains how the District uses frequent assessments to measure student growth, encourage students to set goals for their own learning, and share the data with parents to encourage them to support student learning goals. To view the archived presentation, please visit: http://www.schoolwisepress.com/seminar/archives.html.
2. Item Response Theory is explained in more detail here: http://echo.edres.org:8080/irt/
3. See: http://www.powayusd.com/projects/edtechcentral/MAPS/PowerPoints/Conferences/ConferencePPS.pps