FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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**About
NWEA**

Northwest
Evaluation Association (NWEA) is a not-for-profit organization committed to
helping school districts throughout the nation improve learning for all
students. NWEA partners with more than 3,000 school districts representing more
than three million students. As a result of NWEA tests, educators can make
informed decisions to promote your child’s academic growth.

**What are
the different NWEA assessments?**

Measures of
Academic Progress™ (MAP) Tests are computerized tests that are multiple choice,
adaptive, and are offered in Reading, Language Usage, and Mathematics. When
taking a MAP™ test, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a
student answers all the previous questions. As the student answers correctly,
questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the
questions become easier. In an optimal test, a student answers approximately
half the items correctly and half incorrectly. The final score is an estimate
of the student’s achievement level.

**How long
does it take to complete a test?**

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Although
the tests are not timed, it usually takes students about one hour to complete
each MAP test.

**When
will my student be tested and how often?**

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ACS tests
students at the beginning of the school year in fall, during the winter, and at
the end of the school year in spring.

**Do all
students in the same grade take the same test?**

No. NWEA
assessments are designed to target a student’s academic performance in
mathematics, reading, and language usage. These tests are tailored to an
individual’s current achievement level. This gives each student a fair
opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do. If a school uses MAP
assessments, the computer adjusts the difficulty of the questions so that each
student takes a unique test.

**What are
NWEA assessments used for?**

** **

NWEA
assessments are used to measure your student’s progress or growth in school.
You may have a chart in your home on which you mark your child’s height at
certain times, such as on his or her birthday. This is a growth chart. It shows
how much he or she has grown from one year to the next. NWEA assessments do the
same sort of thing, except they measure your student’s growth in mathematics,
reading, language usage, and science skills. The scale used to measure your
child’s progress is called the RIT scale (__R__asch un__IT__). The RIT
scale is an equal-interval scale much like feet and inches on a yardstick. It
is used to chart your child’s academic growth from year to year.

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**How do
teachers use the test scores?**

NWEA tests
are important to teachers because they keep track of progress and growth in
basic skills. They let teachers know where a student’s strengths are and if
help is needed in any specific areas. Teachers use this information, along with
classroom data, to help them guide instruction in the classroom.

**Can
parents discuss assessment data directly with NWEA?**

Unfortunately,
due to privacy laws regarding student information (specifically stemming from
the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA), we are unable to
discuss any student information, test results, or district assessment programs
directly with parents.

# Commonly Used Terms

Here are
some terms you will hear and use as you are talking with teachers and your
children about MAP scores and reports.

**District
Average** – The
average RIT score for all students in the school district in the same grade who
were tested at the same time as this student.

**Norm
Group Average** – The
average score observed for students in the norm group.

**Percentile
Range** – Percentiles
are used to compare one student’s performance to that of the norm group.
Percentile means the student scores as well as or better than that percent of
students taking the test in his/her grade. There is about a 68% chance that a
student’s percentile ranking would fall within this range if the student tested
again relatively soon.

**Percentile
Rank** – The
percentile rank is a normative statistics that indicates how well a student
performed in comparison to the students in the norm group. The most recent norm
sample was a group of over 2.8 million students from across the United States.
A student’s percentile rank indicates that the student scored as well as, or
better than, the percent of students in the norm group. In other words, a
student with a percentile rank of 72 scored as well as or better than 72% of
the students in the norm group.

**RIT** – Tests developed by NWEA use a
scale called RIT to measure student achievement and growth. RIT stands for __R__asch
Un__IT__, which is a measurement scale developed to simplify the
interpretation of test scores. The RIT score relates directly to the curriculum
scale in each subject area. It is an equal-interval scale, like feet and
inches, so scores can be added together to calculate accurate class or school
averages. RIT scores range from about 100 to 280. Students typically start at
the 180 to 200 level in the third grade and progress to the 220 to 260 level by
high school. RIT scores make it possible to follow a student’s educational
growth from year to year.

**Standards** – Standards are statements,
developed by states or districts, of what students should know and be able to
do, related to specific academic areas.

The RIT Scale is a curriculum
scale that uses individual item difficulty values to estimate student
achievement. An advantage of the RIT scale is that it can relate the numbers on
the scale directly to the difficulty of items on the tests. In addition, the
RIT scale is an equal interval scale. Equal interval means that the difference
between scores is the same regardless of whether a student is at the top,
bottom, or middle of the RIT scale, and it has the same meaning regardless of
grade level.

RIT scales, like scales
underlying most educational tests, are built from data about the performance of
individual examinees on individual items. The theory governing scale
construction is called Item Response Theory (IRT). NWEA uses a specific IRT
model conceived by Danish mathematician, George Rasch, (1901-1980). Rasch is
best known for his contributions to psychometrics, and his model is used
extensively in assessment in education, particularly for skill attainment and
cognitive assessments.

Characteristics of the RIT
Scale include:

* It is an achievement scale.

* It is an accurate scale.

* It is an equal interval scale.

* It helps to measure growth over time.

* It has the same meaning regardless of grade or
age of the student.

Scale Variance by Subject

Why do RIT scales vary from
subject to subject (e.g. the mathematics RIT scale goes higher than other
subject areas)? A ceiling effect exists when an assessment does not have
sufficient range to accurately measure students at the highest performance
levels. It has nothing to do with the actual numbers attached to the scale and
everything to do with the position of students on it. For example, in reading,
the RIT scale measures with relative accuracy up to about 245. This represents
the 93rd percentile at grade 10, and the 95th percentile at grade 8. If a
student scores above we know that student performed high but may not be able to
accurately assess how high they performed. Relative to other tests, therefore,
there is very little true ceiling effect in this assessment. Even most high
performing 10th graders receive a technically accurate measure of their skill.