ACE logo

Progress, Not Perfection: Mid-Year Check-In for Holy Angels

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 by Elizabeth Anthony

 mg 9592

The return from Christmas break brought feelings of nervous excitement for the teachers at Holy Angels and our staff here at ACE. January is a big month for our Notre Dame ACE Academies–and for many other schools across the nation–because students take the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) mid-year assessment. MAP is a widely-respected online assessment that students take three times per year to measure their growth. The test is particularly accurate because it is adaptive, meaning the questions get easier or harder depending on the student’s answers to previous question. At the end, NWEA provides teachers with really specific information about student progress and skills that teachers can use to inform their instruction.

But wait, don’t teachers in blended classrooms have access to a wealth of data about student performance and progress every day?

"Here’s the GREAT news: our students are growing, and faster than other students across the nation! "

Good question! Many of the software programs in blended classrooms do provide information about students’ progress and performance on a weekly or daily basis–or even in real time–but we still recommend that schools administer an additional diagnostic assessment so that teachers have a broader view of their students’ progress from a different source.

We knew it was important for Holy Angels to take the MAP test to make sure that the learning students demonstrate on the software programs they use in classrooms every day would translate to other contexts. It would also give teachers an overview of the skills their students have mastered and still need to address.

But here’s why it was a little nerve-wracking for our Holy Angels to take the MAP assessment this January: other schools across the nation take the same assessment at the same time, which means we can compare our students’ growth to the growth of students at other schools. This was “a moment of truth” of sorts for us as we asked if blended learning was actually leading to more student growth than the other interventions in place at other schools.

So, what did we find?

Here’s the GREAT news: our students are growing, and faster than other students across the nation! We compared the fall-to-winter growth of students at Holy Angels with that of students at other schools by calculating the school’s Conditional Growth Percentile (a measure that compares students’ growth with that of their academic peers) and we found that our students are growing above the 50th percentile (or faster than the average student) in both reading and math. For a school in which students were growing far less than other students across the nation just last year, this was a huge accomplishment. Though there are many ways of measuring “success” at Holy Angels, this is one important indicator for us that blended learning is having a positive impact.  

"If you’re looking for an answer to the question, 'Is it working?' The answer is yes!"

But here’s the truth that we have really known all along: we still have work to do. Holy Angels is only one semester in to its blended-learning program, and it will take time for many of the radical changes in teaching and learning to take effect. Above-average growth is certainly something to celebrate–and a HUGE credit to the hard-working teachers at Holy Angels–but we hope to accelerate students’ growth even more to be absolutely sure they are on the path to college when they leave our campuses.

We are thrilled with the student growth that the teachers and students at Holy Angels have worked so hard to achieve, and we are confident that these tireless efforts will translate to more rapid growth by the end of the year. If you’re looking for an answer to the question, “Is it working?” The answer is yes! But could it be working better? Of course. We are excited by our progress and invigorated by our new challenge to achieve even more growth by the end of this year. Stay tuned to learn alongside our team!

About the Author

Elizabeth Anthony

Elizabeth Anthony

Elizabeth Anthony served as the Associate Director of Blended Learning for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). Elizabeth joined the ACE team after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in May, 2016. As an undergraduate student, Elizabeth was part of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, worked on various blended-learning implementation projects both in the United States and abroad, conducted research for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and studied philosophy.