Vice principal explains purpose of NWEA testing

School uses data to help improve instruction, Matthews says

Vice principal explains purpose of NWEA testing

Jake Langdon, Reporter/Videographer

NWEA is a standardized test unlike any others. It utilizes an adaptable form of testing that changes as a student takes it based on their answers. The first NWEA tests have been administered and the test will be taken two more times, once in the winter and again in the spring. The test is meant to track growth across the year, showing where students are and where they should be next time they sit for the test. 

Mr. Mark Matthews, vice principal for academics, has worked with Principal Mrs. Julie Barthel to better utilize the scores to benefit the teachers and students. Matthews said, “In the past, only some teachers have used it particularly well. Mrs. Barthel has some really good background with it, as do I, from her time at North Central and my time at Carmel, where we used it much more proactively.” 

The test is adaptable in the way that it increases the difficulty of the questions as students answer correctly and lowers the difficulty of questions as students answer incorrectly. 

Students receive their RIT score as a result of completing the NWEA. The score provides an estimation of a student’s instructional level and it also measures student progress or growth in school. Matthews said, “You are essentially being ranked against all other sophomores in North America who are doing this. It will give you your level of achievement.”

The school uses NWEA scores on a more individual level, looking at both the student and a particular class. Matthews said, “When any class takes it, the teachers get a report on their class. It is helpful when you are trying to group students in a way to appropriately challenge them. It helps the teachers understand certain skills have already been mastered.”

Matthews mentioned that the NWEA helps to plan small group instruction, goal setting and identification of  areas of strength and areas of concern. The zone of proximal development scores can aid teachers’ decision making regarding skills to instruct or review. It also provides another piece of information that English or math teachers can present to parents when discussing a student’s performance in a parent-teacher conference. 

Looking at the big picture, Matthews said, “It can in the end offer some insight into Cathedral’s school improvement plan.” He said he believes the administration and educators can utilize it to identify what goals need to be established in the school’s five-year improvement plan.