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Sprandel: D-205 Common Core transition on the right path

This year Elmhurst District 205 made the transition to the Common Core version of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment from the previous version that was aligned to the old Illinois Learning Standards. It was hoped that by moving to the Common Core MAP this year, we would get an early indication of how our students are achieving relative to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). While it is advantageous to receive this early indication, there was also concern that by switching to the Common Core MAP, while still in the process of transitioning to the CCSS in our curriculum, we would see a decrease in our students’ scores.

After the fall MAP testing window closed last September, the results were compared to those from previous years. There is normally a small amount of change in average scores from year to year. The amount of change that we saw this year was consistent with what we have seen in the past. While the change in scores was not significant, the amount of time that students were using to take the tests was. On average, it took our students 10 additional minutes for the reading test and five additional minutes for the math test.

NWEA, the company that produces the MAP assessment, provided the following guidance about what to expect in the transition to the Common Core version of MAP.

"It is important to note that, in order for the scores to be meaningfully used, test content and instructional content must be aligned. The greater the discrepancy between the instructional content and test content, the more likely that a drop in scores will be observed. As a result of a drop in scores, the percentile ranks in relation to the current norms may be lower, but the relative rankings among students should not be affected.

"For example, if you migrate to the CCSS-aligned tests when your students are still receiving instruction aligned to your previous state standards, you may see a drop in RIT and percentile ranks for all students in that particular grade level, due to item pools that are aligned to a different instructional framework.

"In other words, if you have not fully transitioned to the CCSS, you are likely to see a drop in test scores."

District 205 did not see a drop in scores when we switched to the Common Core-aligned version of the MAP test. This would indicate that the alignment work that has been done, although not yet finished, has given us a good head start in preparing our students to meet these more rigorous standards.

Now that we have finished two testing seasons (fall and winter), we are able to examine our results more closely to look for any changes in student growth as another indicator of our progress toward alignment with the Common Core State Standards.

As is shown in the attached graphs, District 205 has seen an increase from previous years in both the amount of growth and the percent of students meeting typical growth in both reading and math when measured from fall to winter.

These results validate the work that began during the summer of 2010, when teams of elementary and middle school teachers at each grade level began the process of using the Common Core State Standards to produce our own Power Standards and Proficiency Scales. This original work was built upon by the entire faculty the following year as the Power Standards and Proficiency Scales were vetted by all teachers during the winter institute days. Teacher teams have since used this basis to begin revising curriculum documents and assessments. Alignment will continue this summer as we are able to move completely away from the old Illinois Learning Standards because we have now administered the ISAT assessment for the last time.

While there is still much work to be done to fully align our curriculum, assessments and instruction to all of the Common Core State Standards, these early results indicate that we are on the right path.

Charles Sprandel is the District 205 director of assessment, research and quality analysis

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