KSDE wins $5.8M award, taps CETE to lead new project

Monday, October 19, 2015

LAWRENCE — The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) has tapped the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation (CETE) to lead a new project supported by a four-year, $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

In partnership with state departments of education in Kansas, Alaska, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, CETE will develop a learning-maps-based instructional model linking formative assessment with curriculum and instruction for grades 2–8 in mathematics and English language arts.

Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students to monitor progress and adjust instructional activities to meet students’ learning needs. Throughout the development process, CETE will engage with approximately 400 elementary- and middle-school educators across the project’s five partnering states.

“This award is a tremendous gift,” said Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson. “It supports our goal to prepare all students for college and careers by enabling us to develop new tools that support teachers in their efforts to individualize instruction. Every child learns differently, so gaining a deeper understanding of the learning process and then designing a formative assessment process that can pinpoint and address where a student is on the learning spectrum just makes sense.”

Developed through theory and research of how humans learn cognitively, learning maps display stepping stones in the learning process: networks of concepts, skills and connections that foster understanding. CETE pioneered the learning maps approach with the development of the Dynamic Learning Maps™ alternate assessment currently being administered by 13 states, including Kansas.

“The goal of this approach is to better individualize instruction by helping educators gauge how well students are learning and when adjustments to instruction need to be made,” said Neal Kingston, the project’s principal investigator and director of KU’s Achievement & Assessment Institute, of which CETE is part. “We have expertise in this approach and have seen how it can help teachers and students succeed. This project provides another opportunity to translate our expertise into a sustainable solution, investing our intellectual capital in ways that benefit the public good.”

As the project progresses, CETE will study the effectiveness of the learning-maps approach within the general student population and develop an open-source web-hosting solution for making materials available to educators. Project findings will help inform the field on updated practices for advancing student learning.

“Technically speaking, a learning map is a network of connected learning targets, representing the many-to-many relationships among concepts and skills and containing a landscape of learning pathways that are not necessarily linear,” said CETE’s Angela Broaddus, who will serve as project director and co-principal investigator. “Plainly speaking, we believe that to help students succeed, you need a road map. In the simplest terms, a learning map provides an infrastructure that supports teachers and students being on track for reaching academic goals.”

Broaddus said teachers have responded positively to the approach. In a recent project with fifth-grade teachers in USD 207 at Fort Leavenworth, teachers were introduced to learning maps through face-to-face professional-development sessions, during which the teachers and KU researchers together considered selected mathematics topics and discussed research-based instructional strategies that supported the learning progression displayed in the learning map. For example, Nicki Lindner, who teaches fifth grade at Fort Leavenworth’s Bradley Elementary School, used a learning map to plan instruction focused on multiplying fractions.

“Before we saw the learning map,” Lindner said, “we taught students the standard algorithm and thought that was enough. After considering the learning map and improving our own understanding of how area models represented what was really happening when we multiplied fractions, we changed our instruction. We used the area model earlier in our teaching and found that our students were then better able to understand to the standard algorithm, either arriving at it on their own or through guided conversations. We also noted how our struggling students in particular appeared to hang on to their understanding better than when we focused on the procedure instead of the concepts.”

About AAI & CETE
AAI is the umbrella organization for four specialized research centers at the University of Kansas, including CETE, a nationally recognized research center specializing in large-scale assessment and online test-delivery systems. As part of a major research university community, staff members are deeply committed to expanding the knowledge base for academic assessment, applying their findings with the fundamental aim of helping teachers and students achieve the best possible outcomes. For more than 30 years, CETE has developed leading-edge testing programs and technology tools.

AAI’s other research centers are Agile Technology Solutions, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research, and the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs. AAI employs about 500 professionals, all committed to building partnerships, products, and programs in educational practice, assessment, access and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities, and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels.


Media Contact
Bill Woodard
Communications Manager
Achievement & Assessment Institute
The University of Kansas
bwoodard@ku.edu  |  785.864.1680

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