By Jason Borko April 2018
Our first priority at Pinewood Christian Academy is to foster in our students a relationship with Jesus Christ and a Biblical world view. Our second, almost equal, priority is to facilitate their academic development through a rigorous yet supportive instructional program. How do we know if we are succeeding in this? One tool we use to evaluate our students’ progress and the school’s effectiveness is a nationally normed standardized test.
Nationally Normed Standardized Tests — designed and administered in a consistent manner to large student populations of the same age or grade level — measure how well test-takers perform compared to others across the entire United States. For many years, Pinewood Christian Academy has relied on the SAT10 for our annual assessment. This year our K–2nd-grade students will pilot the NWEA MAP Growth test, which is gaining popularity among private, Christian, and charter schools across Florida and is approved by the state as a valid and reliable measure of student achievement.
We like this test because it is:
- Computer-based: In contrast to the traditional No. 2 pencil bubble test, scores can be viewed within 24 hours of testing. Audio support provides students with help and directions whenever they request it.
- Adaptive: Tests begin with questions appropriate for students’ grade levels, then adapt to each student based on their responses. This dynamic approach challenges top performers without overwhelming others.
- Untimed: Because the test adapts to students’ responses, the number of questions can be reduced; most test sections require only 30–45 minutes.
- Ongoing: Students can be evaluated up to three times each year so we can track their growth from September through May.
Rest assured that PCA is not adopting a “testing culture”; we are, in fact, doing the opposite! Because the test requires less time to complete, teachers and students are not “losing” an entire week in April to testing; instead, each class can complete the test in half a day. And by using MAP two or three times each year we are eliminating the stress of the “high stakes” test at the end of the year.