Fusion Program Helps Students Increase Academic Proficiency

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The academic skills of students in the archdiocese have been increasing thanks largely to a program called Fusion NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association), using a method known as MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), according to an administrator in the archdiocesan Office of the Superintendent of Schools.

“We have MAP, it’s an online program; it enables us to test our kids three times a year (for learning assessments),” said Dr. Susan Miller, associate superintendent of curriculum and staff development. She spoke with CNY on Aug. 5 in her office at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. “We do a test right when the kids come to school (in September); we do a test in January, and then we do a test in May…We can assess how each of our students is doing, student by student, in meeting their academic needs. We’re heading into our third year of using MAP.”

This is interim testing, in lieu of only traditional yearly assessment testing, Dr. Miller explained. “Before this, the only test they took that was common for every single student was the New York State exam…What an interim test like this does, is that it enables us to get check points to say, OK, how is the student doing?” More frequent assessment testing and personalized teaching adjustments, she noted, lead to “a more proficient student.”

Dr. Miller led a group of 14 academics that represented the archdiocese at the annual Fusion NWEA Education Conference in St. Louis in late June. The group included regional superintendents, principals and instructional specialists (teaching coaches).

Nicholas Green, principal of Incarnation School in Manhattan, told CNY that the Fusion NWEA conference “was a really positive experience, both in my professional learning and in better assessing how we’re working with the teachers, the students and the families.” MAP, he added, “serves as a baseline for all of us to be able to see how (the students) are growing academically.”

All indications are that New York State exam figures to be released in early September will show that the Fusion NWEA approach has notably helped archdiocesan students improve their grades in math, reading and language usage this past school year, Dr. Miller said, as it did in the school year that ended in June 2018, where data showed a 7 percent rate increase in “above average growth” in math, and a 6 percent rate increase in English Language Arts.

The NWEA program is used by many school districts and dioceses nationwide and abroad. It involves the teaching approach called MAP Growth. MAP Growth Skills is described as a skills mastery and progress monitoring assessment that helps teachers drill down to the specific skills each student needs to learn. Educators are trained to be able to see what struggling students are missing, and what advanced students are ready to take on, then adjust instruction in the moment and monitor student progress.

Educators learn how to obtain the targeted information they need to help students through MAP Skills, which identifies specific skill gaps so teachers can personalize instruction and get students back on track. Because MAP Skills is arranged in logical learning progressions, teachers can clearly see what a student needs to learn next. Reporting dashboards show data on each student immediately after testing, giving teachers insights they can use in starting immediate instructional adjustments. The dashboards make it clear at a glance what skills students have mastered and what skills they need to work on next.

NWEA is a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators by creating assessment solutions that measure academic growth and proficiency, and provide insights to help tailor instruction at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The NWEA was formed in Oregon in 1977, after several years of brainstorming by Oregon and Washington educators and researchers.

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