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Testing in North Carolina: 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. North Carolina uses a variety of tests to measure students' achievement, including End-of-Grade (EOG) tests in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math, the North Carolina Writing Assessments in grades 4, 7 and 10, and End-of-Course (EOC) tests in various academic subjects at the high school level. Students must pass the grade 8 EOG tests and the North Carolina Test of Computer Skills to receive a diploma.

Under the ABCs Accountability Program, North Carolina assigns ratings to show how well schools are performing.

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 school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final determination.

The information provided on GreatSchools profiles for test scores is for the 2007-2008 school year. Information about the ABCs Accountability Program is for the 2007-2008 school year.

Tests in North Carolina

In 2007-2008 North Carolina used the End-of-Grade (EOG) tests to measure student achievement in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math. The North Carolina Writing Assessments were given to students in grades 4, 7 and 10. End-of-Course (EOC) tests were used to assess high school students in algebra I, algebra II, English I, biology, civics and economics, United States history, and geometry. EOC tests in chemistry, physical science and physics were not administered in 2006-2007, but were re-introduced in 2007-2008.

The North Carolina Competency Test was given to high school students beginning in grade 9 who did not score at or above the proficient level on the grade 8 EOG tests. The EOG, EOC and North Carolina Competency Test are standards-based, which means they measure how well students are mastering specific skills defined for each grade by the state of North Carolina.

Additionally, all students take the North Carolina Test of Computer Skills beginning in grade 8. Students who did not take the English I or algebra I EOC test by the end of grade 10 must take the High School Comprehensive Test in reading or mathematics.

How are the tests scored?

All of these tests, except the computer skills test and the North Carolina Competency Test, are scored based on four levels of achievement, with level 1 being the lowest and level 4 the highest. Students scoring at or above level 3 are considered to be proficient. The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level on the tests. The North Carolina Test of Computer Skills and the North Carolina Competency Tests are scored on a pass-fail basis. The state's goal is for all students to pass the tests.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

Although North Carolina administers a variety of tests, only EOG and EOC results are displayed on GreatSchools profiles. For each subject, the combined percentage of students scoring at and 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 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; 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?

North Carolina test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards, and test score performance can be used to determine promotion from one grade to the next. Students in grades 3 and 5 who do not achieve a proficient level (level 3 and above) receive remedial help and are allowed to retake the test. If they do not pass, they might not be promoted to the next grade. Students who do not score at or above the proficient level on the EOG tests in grade 8 must pass the North Carolina Competency Test in reading and math in order to graduate. All students must pass the North Carolina Test of Computer Skills to receive a diploma. Numerous chances are provided to students to pass these exams.

EOC assessment results are recorded on student's transcripts, and count toward at least 25% of a student's final grade in each course. Beginning with students entering ninth grade in 2006-2007, students will be required to score at level 3 or above on five EOC tests in order to graduate. The required tests are: algebra I, biology, English I, civics and economics, and U.S. history.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score 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 can do to help. Because North Carolina test results help determine whether a given school will receive financial rewards or penalties from the state, your child may be eligible to receive federal and/or state money for tutoring or to transfer to another school.

ABCs Accountability Program in North Carolina

North Carolina uses the ABCs designations to show how well schools are performing against the state standards. The ABCs designations are based on the percentage of students who tested at or above grade level on state standardized tests and whether students made the amount of growth expected in one year.

Schools receive one of the following designations: High Growth, Expected Growth, No Recognition, Priority School or Low-Performing. Schools that meet or exceed the state's growth goals can earn the following additional designations for commendable performance: Honor School of Excellence, School of Excellence, School of Distinction or School of Progress.