Several of you have asked for an explanation from DOE about state testing and why we don’t see how Georgia students performed on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills
Here is the response from Melissa Fincher, associate superintendent of assessment and accountability:
The assessments that comprise the Georgia testing program are mandated by Georgia law. For years the Georgia program has included a national norm-referenced test (NRT), which historically has been the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).
During the 2008 legislative season, the law was amended to make school district participation in the NRT optional. In addition, the law allows districts to select two grades – one in grade band 3 – 5 and one in grade band 6 – 8 – to assess with the NRT.
This option went into effect during the 2008-2009 school year. Prior to this time, school districts were required to test students in grade 3, 5, and 8 annually.
Before we discuss why statewide performance on the NRT is not available, it is important to discuss what an NRT is. Like most nationally-normed tests, the ITBS reflects content and skills that are commonly taught in each grade across all fifty states.
While certainly the content and skills taught in each state are similar, there are differences in terms of when things are taught and the degree to which they are stressed within a state’s curriculum.
Therefore, there is some degree of misalignment between any national NRT and what is taught in any given state for any given grade.
The purpose of norm-referenced testing is to obtain insight into a student’s performance or achievement relative to a nationally representative sample that was administered the test at a point in time (called a norming sample). Most NRTs have fall and spring norms and depending on when the test is administered in a school, student performance is reported relative to the spring or fall norms.
Specifically, results of an NRT depict how a student’s academic skills compare with students in the national sample—the obtained scores highlight differences between and among students across an achievement continuum.
This differs from the purpose of criterion-referenced tests, such as Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), which is to depict whether students have met a particular standard of performance.
In Georgia, performance on the ITBS has been moderately well correlated with performance on the CRCT. This means that students with high performance on one measure tend to have high performance on the other and vice versa.
Statewide performance on the NRT is unavailable for a couple of reasons:
1) Although prior to 2008-2009 districts were required to test all students in the mandated grades, districts were allowed to select a testing window that best met their scheduling needs. This means that different norms were applied to district testing in the fall versus spring. In addition, the norms depend on when in the fall or spring the district tested. When different norms are utilized, it is inappropriate to compare or aggregate.
2) As discussed earlier, last school year the NRT became optional. Many districts elected not to administer the NRT while others elected to test in grades other than 3, 5, and 8.