Measuring Individual Student Growth

August 23, 2013

Dear Families of Students in Grades K-8,

On behalf of our entire GCPS team, I hope this finds everyone having had a successful and positive opening week of school. The intention of this letter is to communicate some of the changes associated with the division’s student assessment program.

Virginia’s public school students face a minimum of 34 “high stakes” tests during their thirteen-year public school career under the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment program. Additionally, students have traditionally encountered countless high stakes practice tests in preparation for the state assessments.

While we embrace the accountability characteristics of the state and federal system, we know that the assessment program falls short in providing the depth and breadth of information teachers, parents, and students need in order to maximize individual growth. We believe we’ve created a better way.

Last spring we released our Balanced Assessment Project, and I encourage our families to take a few minutes to review it as you have time. It can be accessed from our division Website and at:

This fall we will begin measuring individual student growth in the areas of literacy and mathematics using Northwest Evaluation Association’s (NWEA)highly regarded, nationally normed assessment, Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®). In short, this assessment will be administered to our K-8 students three times each year (approximately 60 minutes per administration) and is “computer adaptive.” This means that the assessment adapts to individual student responses: as questions are answered correctly, the level of subsequent questions becomes more challenging; when a question is answered incorrectly, the assessment adapts with less difficult questions. This methodology, along with the nationally normed nature of the assessment, makes MAP® one of the most effective, accurate, and predictive measures of individual student progress. (SOL tests measure achievement, are built on common minimum proficiencies, and were not designed to measure individual growth.) After successful implementation, teachers and parents will begin to receive data that is specific to their child’s progress (or growth), along with the traditional measures of achievement related to state benchmarks.

While we are introducing growth measures this school year, please understand we are not simply adding more assessments. Due to the comprehensive nature of the MAP® test in grades K-8, we will be eliminating more than 70% of what have come to be known as “division marking period tests” or “MP tests.” The introduction of growth assessments, along with integrated performance tasks (learn more by reading our Balanced Assessment Project), will actually result in a net loss (nearly 40%) in assessments across our K-12 testing profile. Without question, this reduction will increase the amount of time available to teachers and students for teaching and learning.

Over the next few weeks, your child will take the MAP® assessments in the areas of reading and mathematics. We are giving the MAP® tests to determine your child’s instructional level (in reading and math) and to measure academic growth throughout the school year, as well as from year to year. MAP® assessments are administered on a computer.

Again, MAP® tests are unique in that they adapt to be appropriate for your child’s level of learning. As a result, each student has the same opportunity for success and maintaining a positive attitude toward testing. MAP® assessments will not be used as a grade for students.

For more information on resources for parents, you may download NWEA’s MAP® Parent Toolkit at

We are thrilled to begin a new era in assessment, one that focuses on every child’s individual growth and achievement. As always, we appreciate your partnership in your child’s education and are always here to help.