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Testing in Utah: 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. Utah's assessment program, the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS), combines a variety of tests to measure student learning and aims to ensure all students graduate from high school having mastered the state standards.

In 2007-2008 Utah used the Utah Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT) to test students in grades 1 through 11 in language arts, in grades 1 through 7 in math, in grades 4 through 9 in science and upon completion of certain courses in grades 8 through 11. The Direct Writing Assessment (DWA) was given to students in grades 6 and 9. The Utah Basic Skills Competency Test (UBSCT) was given to grade 10 students in reading, writing and math. Students are required to pass each section of the UBSCT in order to receive a basic high school diploma. The CRT, DWA and UBSCT are standards-based tests, which means they measure specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Utah.

Utah also administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITED) to students in grades 3, 5 and 8, and the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) to students in grade 11 in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies. The ITBS and ITED are norm-referenced tests which measure how well students performed in comparison to their peers across the country.

How are the tests scored?

CRT, DWA and UBSCT results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are assigned one of four performance levels, with levels 3 and above indicating proficiency in the state standards. High school students are considered to have passed the UBSCT if they score at or above level 3. The goal is for all students to score at or above proficient on the tests.

The ITBS and ITED measure 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 national average for all schools is 50. The state's goal is for all students to score at or above the national average.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

Although the U-PASS testing program includes a variety of tests, only CRT results are included on GreatSchools profiles. For each subject on the tests, the combined percentage of students in all grades scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed.

Why do the tests matter?

Utah test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Furthermore, students must pass all sections of the UBSCT to receive a high school diploma. Students have multiple opportunities to retake the test if they do not pass it the first time.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall scores for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the 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 and obtaining supplemental 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 Utah Schools.

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