Testing in Alabama: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2007-2008 Alabama used the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test (ARMT) to measure student achievement in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading. Students in grades 5, 7 and 10 took the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing Exam. The writing test includes four parts: Grammar and Usage, Holistic Composition, Writing Mechanics and Sentence Formation. Alabama introduced the Alabama Science Assessment (ASA) in 2007-2008, which tests students in science in grades 5 and 7.

High school students took the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies, beginning in grade 10. Students must pass the AHSGE to graduate. The ARMT, ASA and AHSGE are all standards-based tests that measure how well students are mastering specific skills defined by the state of Alabama.

Alabama also used the Stanford 10, a national test, to measure how well students performed in comparison to their peers across the country. Students in grades 3 through 8 took the Stanford 10 in reading, math and language arts, while students in grades 5 and 7 took the Stanford 10 in science. Students in grade 6 took the test in social studies.

How are the tests scored?

ARMT, ASA, AHSGE and Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing Exam results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in meeting state standards. Students are rated at one of four levels: does not meet, partially meets, meets and exceeds. High school students are considered to have passed the AHSGE if they score at the level of meets or exceeds. The goal is for all students to meet or exceed state standards on the tests.

The Stanford 10 measures performance through a percentile based on the scores of all students of the same grade level in the nation. Students receive a percentile rank, which indicates how well they performed in comparison to peers in other states. If the number is 45, for example, students scored as well or better than 45% of students who took the test across the country. The state's goal is for students to score at or above the 40th percentile.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

Although Alabama's testing program includes a variety of tests, only the ARMT, ASA and AHSGE results are included on GreatSchools profiles. For each subject on the ARMT and the ASA, the combined percentage of students scoring at the levels of meets and exceeds is displayed. For each subject on the AHSGE, the percentage of students passing the exam is displayed.

GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. The subgroups are identified by the Alabama Department of Education; if there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?

Alabama test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. This is especially important for high school students, who must pass the AHSGE to graduate. Students who do not pass it the first time have multiple opportunities to retake the test. Checking that your child is meeting state expectations on standardized tests in the early grades can ensure that she will be on track to pass the graduation exam in high school.

Test results are important for schools because Alabama uses them to place schools in one of three categories: clear, caution or alert. Schools placed under alert have three years to meet target improvement goals and demonstrate that they are working to meet the state's standards.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall scores for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home. If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help.

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