Elementary students listening to MAP test instructions at Stamford HK

What is a MAP assessment, and Why Do Schools Use it?

Benefits of the MAP Test

Many schools are now using MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) to help inform instruction and measure student growth, but why use the the MAP test, and how effective is it?

Forty Years of Research

First, it is essential to go back to the development of the MAP assessment. In 1973, educators and researchers from Oregon and Washington state school districts formed an association to build a new testing system that precisely measured individual students’ academic level and growth. These innovators pooled their time and talents to make the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). Since its creation, the NWEA has been a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency to provide insights to help tailor instruction.

What does MAP test measure?

A MAP assessment measures a student’s proficiency in math, literacy, and science against grade-level standards. Based on a student’s current achievement results, MAP also predicts (with guidance from a teacher) how much growth a student should achieve over the coming year. One important way of measuring this is to determine what percentage of students met or exceeded growth targets. For example, at Stamford American School, students exceeded their growth targets by 15% three years in a row under the instruction of expert faculty with an average of 12 years of experience. Even during the pandemic and online classes, Grade 7 students averaged 12.9% higher than their target.

How does it support learning outcomes better than an exam?

Teachers or schools often develop exams themselves; therefore, exams can vary from school to school, even with the same curriculum content. While internal testing is helpful to understand progress, it does not provide a broader perspective based on a large data sample.

To address this need for standardized comparison, the MAP assessment was developed by experts at NWEA using over 40 years of experience. NWEA tools are currently used in about 24,500 schools in the U.S and an additional 1,000 international schools and agencies in 145 countries worldwide. MAP assessments allow educators factual data to benchmark growth on an extensive and diverse global sampling of learners.

A Tool to Improve Learning Results

After an exam, students often receive a grade without insight into where they need to extend or improve their learning—only what they got right or wrong. MAP data provides teachers insight into each student’s unique skills and challenges as it is adaptive to their level. If a student gets a question wrong, a MAP assessment will also present questions at different levels until consistent success is shown. The final result is a clear indication of a student’s capabilities.

MAP assessments are conducted twice a year (beginning and end) and helps teachers, parents, and students understand their proficiency—at the beginning of the year—to inform teaching and reflect on progress at the end of the year ahead of the next academic year.  

For example at Stamford, based on MAP data, secondary teachers were able to confirm the trend that students with lower English proficiency would be impacted in certain math units and therefore adapt instruction to cover more vocabulary for targeted student groups and increase math proficiency.

At Stamford American School Hong Kong, MAP is just one of the many tools used to measure student proficiency in literacy, math, and science. It’s a trusted tool to help the experienced faculty tailor instruction to each student’s unique strengths and areas needing additional support to achieve their best individual result.