Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. Nevada’s assessment program, the Nevada Proficiency Examination Program (NPEP), combines a variety of tests to measure student learning. In 2007-2008 Nevada used the Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT) to test students in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math, and in grades 5 and 8 in science. Students in grades 5 and 8 were also tested in writing using the Nevada Analytic Writing Examination (NAWE). High school students took the Nevada High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) in reading, math, science and writing. Students must pass the HSPE in order to graduate. The CRT, NAWE and HSPE are standards-based tests that measure specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Nevada.

Nevada also used the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) for elementary schools and the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED) for high schools in 2007-2008. The ITBS and ITED are norm-referenced tests that measure how students are performing compared with their peers nationwide.

How are the tests scored?

The CRT, NAWE and HSPE results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated on one of four levels: emergent/developing, approaches standard, meets standard or exceeds standard. The goal is for all students to score at or above the state standard.

The ITBS and ITED measure performance through a percentile based on the scores of all students of the same grade level in the nation. All students receive a percentile rank, which indicates how well they performed in comparison with 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 goal is for all students to score at or above the national average.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For the CRT, NAWE and HSPE, the combined percentage of students meeting and exceeding the state standard is displayed. HSPE results represent the combined results of students who took the test in grade 10, and students who retook the test in grade 11. ITBS and ITED results are not displayed on GreatSchools profiles.

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 Nevada Department of Education; 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?

The CRT, NAWE and HSPE test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Test results are especially important for high school students, who must pass the Nevada HSPE to receive a high school diploma. Students are given several opportunities to pass the test, and receive remediation prior to their third and subsequent attempts. Test results are also used to determine, in part, if schools are meeting Adequate Yearly Progress for No Child Left Behind.

It is important to be aware of both your child’s score on the assessments and the overall score 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 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.

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