We are well under way now with the second year of the new North Dakota State Assessment (NDSA). This year’s roll out has been a lot smoother than last year. We have not seen the server and code problems that we dealt with last year. The interface seems more user friendly and I am hearing positive comments from teachers who have already administered the test. As of just before spring break 500 testing segments had been started and 360 of them had been completed. This includes both ELA and math in both the computer adaptive test (CAT) and the performance task (PT). The adaptive portion of the test will give students easier or harder questions based on how well they are doing but it won’t start until it is confident in a student’s ability. It also will not leave the students grade level. Hopefully that will change so that we can get a more accurate picture of a student’s ability if they are well above or below grade level.
The first week back from spring break will be a big test for the NDSA as more schools will be coming online and more students will be testing at the same time. We have several more schools who will begin testing now in April.
Students who took the NDSA last spring did not receive results until late this fall and their individual student reports that were shared with parents did not come in until February. That is almost a year after the student took the test. That delay impacts our ability to use the data in meaningful ways for the students. Historically the NDSA was not an assessment that drove instruction but rather it was used by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) to determine Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Our test scores were part of a formula that also included participation rates, and either graduation rate or attendance rate depending on the grade levels of the schools testing. Now that NCLB is a thing of the past and is being replaced by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) NDDPI gets more control over what determines AYP so they are putting together a team this spring to begin work on what AYP looks like and how our student’s test scores will play into it. If we receive test scores sooner this year as we have been promised the data will be more useful for our students and teachers.
Did you know that the current state assessment in reading and math came about in 2001 legislation in response to requirements of the federal law NCLB. House Bill 1293 required schools to give a state assessment in reading and mathematics once each year to public school students in grades 3-8 and 11. It also required schools to test students in science in one grade chosen from 3-5, once in 6-9 and once in 10 or 11th grade. Prior to this law schools tested students in grades 4,8, and 11 in ELA, math, and science. Even before we had the common standards of the Common Core we took a test that was based on another state’s standards. Some may remember when their students took the Iowa Basic Skills test. In fact when I became superintendent in Divide County I found some old test records from those days.
Assessment has always been a part of education and always will be. It is what we do with the results and how it impacts our instruction that has evolved and will continue to evolve.