An important question to ask when looking at an educational model is “How do they determine what a student knows?”
In a traditional classroom, neither a grade nor a standardized test gives students, teachers, or parents a clear view of what skills have been learned. In theory, grades are supposed to tell us how much a student knows about a subject and where they rank relative to their peers, but grades are really an overly-simplified summary of homework, quizzes, and chapter tests.
On the other hand, many alternative schools claim to have a rigorous academic curriculum but don’t provide the data to back up their talk. This is just as bad. Because alternative schools refuse to take normative assessments — to them that would mean choosing to play in the sandbox with normal schools — they don’t have anything concrete to show for their “revolutionary” curriculums.
Then there’s Alpha.
We have a leading edge model AND we take MAP testing to show how our students stack up against the rest of the country. We are happy to play in the sandbox with the traditional schools. In fact, because our three promises differentiate us from the rest, we like to think that the sandcastle we’re building sits within a pretty awesome moat.
What is MAP, exactly?
MAP Growth is an adaptive, web-based assessment tool that is aligned with Common Core standards. The “test” is designed to measure what concepts students know and what concepts they’re ready to learn in four core subject areas: Reading, Math, Science, and Language.
We like MAP because it accomplishes a few important goals:
MAP norms kids to grade level. MAP reporting gives each student a percentile for achievement and growth compared to other students their age across the country. With all the freedom of the Alpha curriculum, we like that MAP tells us how kids are performing on a normative scale.
MAP allows us to show growth over the course of a year. MAP provides each student with a Growth metric that shows how quickly students are mastering academic content between tests. We judge actual student growth against their expected growth and the growth of their peers.
MAP allows us to find areas that may need practice. Each MAP report includes a list of specific concepts that students are immediately ready to practice. It keeps us informed as to the edge of each learner’s ability and allows guides to tweak apps or applied learning workshops as necessary.
MAP is the assessment tool that best reflects our model. Our academic curriculum is mastery-based and personalized to each student. We use adaptive apps for instruction — it makes sense that we would use an adaptive assessment to get a detailed picture of what concepts a student knows.