School Wide Testing


Dear Parents and Guardians,

Each spring students in grades 3 through 8 will take the Criterion Reference Tests (CRT) which is the assessment required by the state.  The CRT is used to measure specific skills and concepts and to determine whether or not a school is making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The CRT is also used to learn about students and where they are in relationship to the state curricular benchmarks and standards.  In addition to the CRT the students will be taking the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), a normed assessment, although not at the same time.  The dates for the various types of assessment will be on the calendar and posted on the web site.  Both of these tests have to be taken during a certain time frame and we have very little flexibility on these dates.

This letter explains basic features of these tests, suggestions to help your child do better on the test, and suggests questions you might ask your child's teacher about testing. Understanding the role of testing will help you to enable your child to succeed in school and to develop a better relationship between your family and your child's school.

All students in grades 3-8 are required to take the State (CRT) test and the school will assess K-8 using MAP.  Any student who is absent will be required to makeup the test and this could mean that they have to take multiple tests one right after the other.

What Are Normed Tests and Criterion-Reference Tests?

Usually created by commercial test publishers, standardized tests and Criterion-Reference tests are designed to give a common measure of students' performance. Because large numbers of students throughout the country, and/or state, take the same test, they give educators a common yardstick or ``standard'' of measure. Educators use these tests to tell how well school programs are succeeding, to give the state and federal government, and to give themselves a picture of the skills and abilities of today's students.

The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test is a computerized, adaptive assessment program that provides educators with information they can use to improve teaching and learning. The assessment itself adapts to the student's ability, accurately measuring what a child knows and needs to learn. MAP tests also allow teachers to measure individual student academic growth over time, independent of grade level or age.

A student's score on a “normed” reading test, for example, tells us only how his or her score compares to the scores of others taking the same (or equivalent) reading test. There is no relationship between a reading test score and a person's actual reading performance. In a 'criterion-referenced' test, failure is determined by a cut score set by an appointed government panel. As with a “normed” test, there is no connection between test scores and actual academic performance.

Why Do Schools Use These Tests?

All forms of assessment can help teachers and administrators in making decisions regarding the instructional programs. They help schools measure how students in a given class, school, or school system perform in relation to other students who take the same test,  or how they do when compared to the state standards. Using the results from these tests, teachers and administrators can evaluate the school system, a school program, or a particular student.


How Do Schools Use These Tests?

Different types of tests have different purposes. The MAP assessment is used only by the school and we use the results to help us better guide instruction and assist in setting goals for each individual student. Criterion-Reference tests are used by the school and the state to determine how well a student is doing in relationship to the state standards, which determines our curriculum, and whether or not the school has meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). 

Educators most commonly use these tests to:

  • Evaluate School Programs;
  • Report On Students' Progress;
  • Diagnose Students' Strengths And Weaknesses;
  • Select Students For Special Programs;


Understanding Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)


What is AYP?

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is designed to ensure that each year schools and school systems demonstrate continuous improvement toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014, as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act. AYP is part of the accountability system developed by the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to comply with this federal mandate.


How is AYP measured?

There are various targets that schools must meet annually in order to achieve AYP. If a school does not meet any one of these targets, it will not meet AYP for that year. There are targets for proficiency in reading, targets for participation in reading testing, targets for proficiency in mathematics, targets for participation in mathematics testing, and targets for an additional academic indicators—attendance rate for elementary.

The target for reading and mathematics proficiency is to reach a designated percent of students who perform at or above the proficient level on the States Criterion-Reference test. Schools must meet this target for their entire student population and for eight subgroups—American Indian, Asian American, African American, Hispanic, and white students, and students receiving special education services, students with limited English proficiency, and students receiving free and reduced-price meals. The target is the same for every subgroup and increases each year to bring schools closer to the goal of 100 percent of students at or above the proficient level.

The target for attendance for elementary and middle schools is 95 percent for all students. This target remains the same every year.


How do I know if a school met AYP?

The results for AYP are posted on the “Office of Public Instruction” web site.

The Fortine Elementary School has met AYP in each year we have taken the assessment.


What happens if a school does not make AYP?

If a school does not make AYP it begins a process that can lead to “School Improvement” status. The first year that a school misses AYP, it is put on alert status. The 2nd  year, it moves into the State’s school improvement process.


How can parents help schools achieve AYP?

Parents are important partners in student achievement. Support for children and the schools are vital. Most importantly, parents can make sure their child attends school during testing; otherwise, the child may automatically receive a basic score. Parents also can talk to school staff members for ideas and suggestions to support their child.

Making AYP is challenging. It is disheartening to a school to be labeled “failing” when AYP is not achieved, since this may be because of one child in one part of the AYP requirements.

Parents can help by remembering that there are many factors to consider when evaluating a school—test scores are just one measure. If a school does not make AYP, do not rush to judgment. It is important for parents to become involved with the school and seek ways to support the school’s improvement efforts.


How Can I Help My Child Do Well On Tests?

Here are a few suggestions for parents who want to help their children do well on tests.

  • First and most important, talk to your child's teacher often to monitor your child's progress and find out what activities you can do at home to help your child.
  • Make sure your child does his or her homework.
  • Make sure your child is well-rested and eats a well-rounded diet.
  • Have a variety of books and magazines at home to encourage your child's curiosity.
  • Don't be overly anxious about test scores, but encourage your child to take tests seriously.
  • Don't judge your child on the basis of a simple test score.


What Should I Ask My Child's Teacher? Before The Test . . .

  • Which tests will be administered during the school year and for what purposes?
  • How will the teacher or the school use the results of the test?
  • What other means of evaluation will the teacher or the school use to measure your child's performance?
  • Should your child practice taking tests?


After The Test . . .

  • How do students in your child's school compare with students in other school systems in your state and across the country?
  • What do the test results mean about your child's skills and abilities?
  • Are the test results consistent with your child's performance in the classroom?
  • Are any changes anticipated in your child's educational program?
  • What can you do at home to help your child strengthen particular skills?


Helping Your Student Achieve:  Suggestions for Parents

As you talk with your student's teachers about results of the Testing, one question you may have is "How can I help him or her to do better?" You want your student to do well in school, and what you do at home can make a difference.

Parents or guardians play an important role in their student's education. Positive attitudes of families about completing school assignments, learning new skills, and "doing your best" can affect how well students achieve. The results of research about learning show that a great deal can be done at home to increase a student's performance.

There are many things you can do to support your student's education. The idea is to encourage students to expand their knowledge and practice what they are learning at school. Some activities for helping your students in reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, and other academic areas follow.


In Reading and Writing

Talk with your children about their studies, homework, and what they did at school.   Listen to your children read, read stories aloud to them, and talk about what they read.  Have a family reading time when you read the newspaper, a magazine, or a book, and your children read their own books.  Take time to discuss what you and your children are reading and talk about unfamiliar words they found.  Encourage your children to write such things as shopping lists, thank-you notes, requests for special favors, short stories, favorite recipes, and personal journals. Set a limit on the amount of time children watch television, and try to watch and discuss the television programs with them whenever possible. Take your children to the library regularly and help them select their books.


In Mathematics

Attend parent education classes about mathematics to prepare for questions that your children might ask at home. Check with your children about their homework every day and make sure assignments are completed. Ask questions about mathematics and solve problems as you play games, watch television, or prepare a favorite recipe. Show children how you use mathematics in what you do every day (e.g., cooking, crafts, automobile repair, speedometer reading, shopping).  Help students read charts or graphs in newspapers, magazines, or television, and talk about what they mean.


In Other Academic Areas

Other academic areas such as science and history challenge students to combine both basic reading and mathematics skills with their knowledge of the subject. Student performance shows a direct connection to reading in these areas. Students who read about a given subject learn the vocabulary and basic knowledge to complete assignments and answer questions on tests. You should encourage student interests in these areas, and you also should discuss what children have read. Newspapers, magazine articles, or television programs about a new scientific discovery or an important historical event should be shared and discussed.

Parents should share their interests in any of these academic areas because children become interested in what is discussed at home. Family trips might include visits to museums and historic sites. Television viewing might include one night a week when the family chooses to learn about a topic of the student's choice.


You Can Help Your Student Do Better On Tests


Attend parent information meetings and ask questions about the major tests given to students and other ways student achievement is measured. Visit your student's classes to see what and how they are learning.

Make sure you know when the major tests will be given and what grade levels and subject areas will be included. Discuss with your students the importance of doing their best on assignments and tests. Make sure your students get a good night's rest and eat a good breakfast before going to school for a big test. Discuss upcoming tests with your student and try to reduce his or her pre-test anxieties. Do not plan activities that will take your student away from school on testing days. Ask for and attend parent-teacher conferences to find out how well your student is achieving and what he or she needs to do to improve.


To Know More

You are encouraged to contact the school for additional information about your student's learning.


Tips for students and parents on test days:

  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Eat a wholesome breakfast.
  • Dress comfortably.
  • Be on time to school.
  • Have all necessary materials (pen, pencil, calculator, etc.).
  • Avoid stressful situations prior to testing.


During the test

  • Listen to and read instructions carefully -- make sure you understand them.
  • If you have a question, ASK IT. Other kids are probably thinking the same thing.
  • Answer questions completely and with detail.
  • Check to be sure you have not skipped anything and proofread answers.
  • Do not let other test takers distract you -- it makes no difference who finishes first or last.
  • If you finish early, go back and proof your answers again. But don't change anything unless you are sure. Studies show that the first answer you choose is usually the right one.


Types of questions that often appear

Multiple Choice:  Read all the answers before marking your choice.  Remember, your first instinct is usually best—so don’t change your answer unless you’re sure.

True/False:  Look for words such as never, always, all and none.  They’re usually in false answers.  Words like may or often are generally found in true answers.

Essay:  Read essay questions at least twice.  Then, make a list of all important thoughts, or key points, about each question before writing your response.  Read through the finished response to be sure you’ve included all your key points and that you have answered all parts of the question.


As always, if you have any questions about the tests that your student(s) will be taking, please do not hesitate to call.


Thank you.