Testing and Assessment: Terms and Acronyms

Formative assessments – Tests, quizzes, skills checks, observations that teachers use on an ongoing basis to modify and evaluate their instruction and check for student understanding

Summative assessments – Tests that take place after a given unit of instruction or academic period that are used to judge student competency and program or course effectiveness

MCAs — The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are summative state tests in mathematics, reading and science that meet the requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They are given every year to measure student performance against the Minnesota Academic Standards that specify what students in a particular grade should know and do. Minnesota’s rules for testing and the federal ESEA require that mathematics and reading tests be given in grades 3–8, and high school (students in grade 10 take the Reading MCA and students in grade 11 take the Mathematics MCA). With very few exceptions, all public school students in the above grades take the Mathematics and Reading MCAs. The Science MCA is given to students in grades 5 and 8 and in the high school grade when they take a life science or Biology course. Students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan may be eligible for accommodations.

Typically the MCAs have been used as a single measure, in isolation – sort of a “snapshot” of student performance. More recently, however, Minnesota has moved to a method to use MCAs to illustrate a child’s growth over time, as compared to him or herself, instead. The use of this kind of growth data is called value-added data and has potential to be much more descriptive and useful for helping a child learn.

MMR – Multiple Measurement Ratings, a new method for tracking MCA scores.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, a school needed to show that ALL students reached a certain level of proficiency in math or reading in order for the school to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)

In 2011 Minnesota devised a new accountability system using not just proficiency but multiple measurements. Using this new accountability system, Minnesota received a waiver from the old NCLB model. The Multiple Measurement Ratings provide a broader view of a schools performance on state tests.

The MMR determines whether a school met proficiency levels, is closing achievement gaps, is increasing graduation rates, and whether individual students are making expected progress.

Results are used by the state to determine classifications of Reward Schools (top 15%), Focus Schools (schools that have the largest achievement gaps) and Priority Schools (bottom 5%), among those that receive extra Federal dollars for students of poverty (Title 1 Funds).

NWEA – Northwest Evaluation Associates (NWEA) is a testing company that produces tests like the MAP test (Measures of Academic Progress) that are widely used to assess student learning. Unlike many other broad assessments, this type of test adapts to a student’s responses as they take the test, based on their answers,

narrowing in on a student’s learning level, and therefore providing very specific feedback to teachers about each student’s understanding and needs. Many teachers use these types of tests multiple times throughout the year to assess specific student growth.

NAEP – National Assessment of Educational Progress is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history.

Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, with only carefully documented changes. This permits NAEP to provide a clear picture of student academic progress over time. NAEP results are based on representative samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the main assessments, or samples of students at ages 9, 13, or 17 years for the long term trend assessments. Random samples of schools districts are chosen in any given year to give the NAEP, as the test simply provides a snapshot of students as compared to one another across the country. These are usually the scores that are used to compare US students to other countries around the world.

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