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Testing in Washington DC: 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 2008-2009 Washington, D.C. used the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS) to measure student achievement in grades 3 through 8 and 10 in reading and math. The DC-CAS is a standards-based testing program, which means it measures specific skills defined for each grade by the District of Columbia.

How are the tests scored?

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

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject on the test, the combined percentage of students in all grades scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed. The Elementary School results displayed on GreatSchools profiles are for grades 3 through 5 combined for each subject. Secondary School results are for grades 6 though 8 and 10 combined.

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 District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). If there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group, results are not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?

Washington, D.C. test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Although test results alone are not used to make decisions regarding grade-level promotion or retention in Washington, D.C., low scores on standardized tests are one piece of evidence that might suggest the need for additional assistance.

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

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.

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