Superintendent ‘sets the record straight’ on fall MAP scores

By Karen Couch, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Kent County Public Schools

The agenda for the Kent County Board of Education’s meeting held Nov. 27 included a presentation on our fall 2023 assessment scores.

The reporting in some media outlets on these test scores lacks quite a bit of context and I would like to set the record straight on these assessments and the new strategies we continue to implement in Kent County Public Schools.

The “test scores” that were reviewed at that meeting were the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments.

These assessments are not the state assessments that contribute to the Maryland Report Card, or the official ranking system for schools.

The MAP assessments are taken by students in order to provide teachers with exactly what the name implies: a way for schools to measure the academic progress of students on grade level standards.

The MAP scores presented to the Kent County Board of Education were taken from assessments that were given to students during the first 10 days of the 2023-24 school year.

Data gathered from these assessments informs our schools how well students understand the current grade level material, without prior instruction from teachers on grade level standards.

Why are these assessments administered?

The data from these assessments allows teachers to tailor their instruction to meet the needs of their students at the beginning of the school year. In this way, teachers can meet students where they are academically and provide opportunities for enrichment and intervention.

Kent County Public Schools administers these assessments again at the end of the year to determine the academic growth of individual students and gauge the success of our initiatives.

During the Nov. 27 presentation to the school board, the administration spoke about the “summer slide.” This is not unique to the Kent County Public Schools and is a common challenge faced by schools all over the country.

It is not surprising during summer break that students are often not receiving daily instruction in reading and math.

Without regular instruction, students often backslide to varying degrees during summer months.

The MAP assessments allow teachers to identify the needs of individual students as well as determine the level of instruction needed to accelerate their learning.

Kent County Public Schools is not just reactive to the summer slide, but has also taken a proactive approach to combatting this challenge.

For generations of students, summer school has traditionally been offered to only those who needed specialized instruction and were at risk for falling behind.

During the pandemic, Kent County Public Schools utilized available grant funding to expand our summer school model and create Acceleration Academies. These academies are open to all students and provided opportunities for continued classroom instruction and experiences over the summer.

In addition, Kent County Public Schools has launched a major innovation in how we teach reading to our students.

If you are an elementary school parent, you have likely heard your child talk about “OG time.”

At school, “OG” stands for Orton-Gillingham, a multi-sensory approach to reading instruction developed by Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, a psychologist.

Together, they created teaching strategies based on the science of reading, the culmination of a large  body of research into just how the human brain learns to read.

Before the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, every kindergarten through third-grade teacher and many special education teachers were trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach.

This year, our teachers have incorporated OG time into their daily reading instruction.

All students, regardless of their reading level, benefit from these strategies.

Perhaps you’ve seen your students practicing their arm tapping at home or pointing out “red words” during story time before bed.

It’s amazing to watch our teachers and students utilize these strategies in their classroom.

The teachers, staff and administrators of the Kent County Public Schools care deeply about the academic success of our students.

We continue to invest in new programs, practices and strategies such as tracking MAP assessment scores, dedicating OG time and expanding Summer Acceleration Academies to ensure Kent County Public Schools’ students receive the best education.

Without the dedication and commitment from our teachers, staff and administrators, we could not provide these rich opportunities to our students.

Trish McGee, owner and publisher of The Evening Enterprise, is an elected member of the Kent County Board of Education. She did not contribute to Superintendent Karen Couch’s commentary.

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