FastBridge aims to help teachers help students in West De Pere
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – Parents of students in the West De Pere School District will soon start hearing references to something called FastBridge and may wonder what exactly it is.
FastBridge is a student assessment system that educators say promises to be less time-consuming, save money, and fill in the gaps that the previous system, Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, left wide open.
“MAP had a ceiling,” said Dr. Amy LaPierre, director of curriculum for the West De Pere School District. “The higher performing students would hit the ceiling and bounce back; the assessment would say that they maxed out of the testing but little else. Teachers couldn’t get a read on where the student was.”
For example, with the MAP system, results might indicate a fourth-grader who did math at a sixth-grade level simply scored out of the fourth grade test.
It couldn’t tell educators the student was doing sixth-grade math.
In addition, the MAP system indicated many students’ scores placed them in the top 1 percent of their age cohort that it struck people like LaPierre as a tad fishy.
“We weren’t convinced it was accurate information,” LaPierre said. “Statistically it didn’t make sense that such a large number of students in one small school district would score in the top 1 percent.”
MAP only covered students from 4K (four-year-old kindergarten) up through eighth grade, whereas FastBridge covers kids through senior year.
FastBridge also has built-in interventions.
If a student scores poorly on a subject, FastBridge alerts the teacher to what facet of that subject the student is having trouble with.
For example, in math, it might determine the child struggles with adding numbers, versus indicating that he or she is having general difficulty with math.
“The teacher doesn’t have to guess,” she said. “It provides the suggestion of intervention and what materials the teacher might use, so teachers don’t have to create their own.”
The “Fast” in FastBridge stands for Formative Assessment System for Teachers.
FastBridge takes 15 to 20 minutes per subject for students to complete, whereas MAP took 45.
“It leaves more time to dedicate to teaching,” LaPierre said.
There’s another benefit to shorter tests.
“Testing fatigue is something we’re always concerned about,” said Joe Feldhausen, teaching and learning coordinator for the West De Pere School District. “The new change means students will be spending half to a third of the time taking these tests as in the past; it could be even less. Standardized testing has become so prevalent, and we’re starting to pull back a little bit more on that.”
FastBridge was developed in Minnesota, in part by the University of Minnesota.
West De Pere School District Superintendent Dennis Krueger said the new assessment will add something important to the overall student assessment process.
“It’s another data point that teachers can use to see what percentage of students meets their targeted growth markers, what percentage is not meeting them and what percentage is exceeding those markers,” he said.