Using the MAP Assessment with Students Who are Visually Impaired: A Residential School Perspective

School year 2016-2017 was a pilot year for the MAP assessments at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. As a school, we were looking for a way to provide progress monitoring to all students in reading, language, and math, and the MAP assessment was chosen for this purpose. Some GMS students had participated in a pilot of the program during the 2015-2016 school year, and their success in accessing the assessment gave us confidence that we could use the MAP schoolwide

Students in Elementary, Middle, and High school participated in the assessments, which were given in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Students who are on the Extension of Standard Course of Study (functional curriculum) were not included in the pilot assessment, but will be added in the future.


For this pilot assessment, all students used screen readers (JAWS or NVDA) to access the assessment. Students with low vision were also able to enlarge the screen if they chose to do so. A few students used braille displays in addition to the screen readers. Here are some points to keep in mind when administering the MAP assessment to students with VI.

  • If screen readers are used, settings must be changed between the language test and the other tests. For the language tests, the screen reader must be set to read all capitalization and punctuation, otherwise many of the items are not accessible to students who cannot see the screen.  These settings should be changed back to default before the reading test, or the inclusion of punctuation and capitalization may interfere with comprehension. Students with advanced skills in screen reader use may be able to make these adjustments as they go. However, the population of GMS includes many students who are new to blindness as well as students with multiple disabilities, so we chose to make this change before the assessment begins.
  • Some items, especially on the math assessment, include charts or graphs. Many of these items have alternative text that students can use to answer the item. However, there are a few items  that are not accessible for students with VI. Students should be instructed to notify the proctor if such an item appears. The proctor should then “suspend” the test for that student. When the proctor “resumes” the test, a different item will appear. This allows the students to answer only items that are accessible to them.
  • Students with dual sensory loss who use hearing aids or cochlear implants may have difficulty using headsets to listen to the test. These students may need to test in a separate room so that they can listen to the assessment through the speaker without disturbing other students.
  • The MAP program makes it very easy to individualize breaks for students with multiple testing sessions. Simply “pause” the assessment for a student to allow him/her a break, then resume after the break. The “suspend” feature allow for assessments to continue over multiple days if needed.
  • If students enlarge the screen during administration, the settings must be returned to default before another assessment can begin, otherwise an error will appear on the screen.

Data Analysis and Progress Monitoring

The MAP website has a plethora of tools for mining and using the data collected during the assessment. The variety of reports available allows school staff to view individual progress, overall school progress, and plan ways to individualize instruction. Highlights and things to consider when viewing MAP data.

  • If students used a screen reader to access the reading test, remember that the test is assessing the student’s verbal comprehension, not reading ability. If students access the reading assessment with a braille display or screen enlarger without a screen reader, then the results are measuring actual reading comprehension and ability.
  • The MAP reports allow school staff to view the time it took students to finish each assessment. This data is helpful, especially if a student has a decrease in scores between administrations. We found that students confronted with the fact that they rushed through the assessment and received a poor score as a result took longer and did better on subsequent administrations.
  • The “Student Profile” report is extremely useful to view a student’s progress over time as well as to gauge how they compare with same age peers. In my opinion, this report is the best for progress monitoring.
  • The “Learning Continuum” report gives valuable information about the skills each student is ready to develop. This report is an excellent resource for individualizing instruction.


Overall, the pilot of the MAP assessment at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind went smoothly. While there were some glitches during the fall administration (primarily with screen reader settings), the learning curve was not steep, and Winter and Spring administrations went very well. The MAP program allows for easy customization of breaks and testing sessions, which allows for students with differing accommodations to test together.

The MAP assessment focus on growth rather than proficiency allows for progress monitoring of ALL students, not just those who are at or above grade level. The tools found on the website make progress easy to see and monitor, with no knowledge of statistics needed.

The only concerns we had as a school is that the  reading test should be considered verbal comprehension test until all students who use braille have access to and experience using a braille display during the assessment.

In conclusion, the pilot of the MAP assessment at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind was a success. While there are some minor concerns, the assessment is easy to administer and provides valuable information about student growth. We plan to continue the program for next school year.


Editor's Note:  For more information about the accessibility of MAP growth assessments, view these Paths to Technology posts:


Read more about: Assessment, Assistive Technology