Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2008-2009 New Jersey used several tests from the New Jersey Statewide Assessment program to measure academic achievement. The tests are standards-based, which means they measure how well students are meeting the state’s grade-level expectations.

The New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) was administered to students in grades 3 through 8 in language arts literacy and math. Students in grades 4 and 8 were also given a science test. The High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA, pronounced “HES-pah”) was given to students in grade 11 in language arts literacy and math. Students are required to pass the HSPA in order to graduate.

How are the tests scored?

New Jersey tests are scored based on three performance levels: partially proficient, proficient or advanced proficient. 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 tests, 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 New Jersey Department of Education; data is not reported for groups with a small number of students.

Why do the tests matter?

High school students are required to pass the HSPA in order to receive a high school diploma. Students who do not perform at required levels are offered additional instruction and may retake the test. Passing the NJ ASK is not a requirement for grade-level promotion.

For schools, test results are used to provide a level of accountability. Schools where test results are consistently low must demonstrate improvement in order to avoid state and federal intervention.

It is important to be aware of both your child’s score on the state assessments and the overall accountability score for his school. If your child scores below proficient, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance and to find out how you can support 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.

What changes to the tests were made recently?

In 2007-2008, the New Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) exam was replaced with a grade 8 NJ ASK exam. In addition, the HSPA science test was replaced with a biology end-of-course (EOC) test. Passing the biology EOC test is not required for graduation at this time.

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

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