Testing in Idaho: 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 Idaho used the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT, pronounced "EYE-sat") to test students in grades 3 through 8 and 10 in reading, language usage and math, and in grades 5, 7 and 10 in science. Students must pass the grade 10 ISAT to graduate. The ISAT is administered twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. The ISAT is a standards-based test, which means it measures how well students are learning specific skills defined for each grade by the state.

Idaho also administered three additional standardized tests: the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI), given in grades K through 3; the Direct Mathematics Assessment (DMA), given in grades 4, 6 and 8; and the Direct Writing Assessment (DWA), given in grades 5, 7 and 9. A small number of students enrolled in special education programs take the Idaho Alternate Assessment (IAA).

How are the tests scored?

ISAT results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four performance levels: advanced, proficient, basic or below basic. The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level.

The IRI is scored on a 3-point scoring standard with a high score of 3, while the DMA and DWA are scored on a 4-point scoring standard with a high score of 4. The state's goal is for all students to meet or exceed grade-level standards on the IRI, DMA and DWA tests.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

Although Idaho administers several different tests, only the ISAT results from the spring administration are included on GreatSchools profiles. For each tested subject, the combined percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level 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. These subgroups are identified by the Idaho Department of Education; if the number of students in a particular group is too small, data is not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?

Idaho test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards and to determine which schools are in need of improvement. Although test results alone are not used to make decisions regarding grade-level promotion or retention in Idaho, low scores on standardized tests are one piece of evidence that might suggest the need for additional assistance. Test results for high school students are especially important, because passing the grade 10 ISAT exam is a requirement for graduation. If they do not pass the first time, students have several opportunities to retake the tests.

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. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring to a higher-performing school and for obtaining supplemental educational services.

A few parting words

Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

Search for Idaho Schools.