Last week, we were excited to announce our groundbreaking new product for K-3 students, MAP® Reading Fluency. We’ve loved hearing all your feedback and questions – so today, we sat down with product guru Jennifer Knestrick, (technically the Senior Product Manager for Early Learning Assessments at NWEA), to talk about how she thinks this will benefit students and teachers and impact early reading measurement.
How did MAP Reading Fluency come to be? Why did NWEA decide to pursue this?
For years we have heard from our partners that they have this need in primary grades to measure oral reading specifically, and that it’s taking too much time now. We had the opportunity, by partnering with LanguaMetrics, to build this capability into the MAP Suite. The automation of scoring oral reading is unprecedented. Now we can provide the piece our partners have been missing from us, and they’re able to save so much time compared to testing kids one at a time.
Tell us a little bit more about the technology behind this – how is Siri related to MAP Reading Fluency?
MAP Reading Fluency is not directly related to Siri, but they share a common ancestor, SRI International®. They have been leaders in the field of speech science for decades – they developed Siri, and they developed EduSpeak®, which is the specific technology we use in MAP Reading Fluency. EduSpeak is ideal for this type of assessment because it has an acoustic model specific to four- to eight-year-old children, and it can accommodate beginning reader behaviors, like skipped lines and self-corrections.
We’ve brought comprehension back to the forefront, and we’ve built an adaptive process that ensures every child finds their zone of proximal development.
What do you think this means for teachers in the early grades?
Bringing fluency assessment online gives teachers the best of both worlds: they get the richness of data needed to help kids progress as readers with minimal time-cost. The automatic scoring and time savings are groundbreaking, to be sure. But the innovation in this product goes beyond automatic speech scoring. We’ve brought comprehension back to the forefront, and we’ve built an adaptive process that ensures every child finds their zone of proximal development. We’ve broadened the picture, looking at instructional reading level as a useful outcome of fluency assessment, not just words-correct-per-minute. So, this is going to be not just a massive time-savings for teachers, but also give them more news they can use about the kids in their class.
The great thing about young kids is they are so eager to try new things, and they love to show what they know. But they are tough test subjects, too. Younger kids have to want to do what you’re asking them to do; otherwise, they just won’t do it. We put a lot of time in up front to make sure we designed this system to appeal to kids and to be easy to use. The kids do have a lot of fun taking the test (which they usually call a “game”), but they also concentrate. And because the test adapts, everyone has a chance to work at their level, which is more developmentally appropriate than a typical fixed-form test.
What are you most excited about with MAP Reading Fluency?
Teachers need their time back – and kids do, too. The instructional time that is lost to fluency screening today is excessive. My hope is that MAP Reading Fluency reverses the ratio – instead of spending tons of time to get one piece of information, now a quick and fun online assessment gives you tons of information in just a little time.
You can learn more about MAP Reading Fluency at nwea.org/map-reading-fluency/.