Standards-Based Accountability Assessments
The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) and alternate assessment Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) are the state tests that help districts measure student progress toward Minnesota’s academic standards and also meet federal and state legislative requirements. Students take one test in each subject. Most students take the MCA, but students who receive special education services and meet eligibility requirements may take the alternate assessment MTAS instead.
The list below shows tests by subject and the grades they are given:
- Reading: MCA or MTAS (grades 3-8, 10)
- Mathematics: MCA or MTAS (grades 3-8, 11)
- Science: MCA or MTAS (grades 5, 8, and once in high school)
Testing is used in schools to measure student achievement. State tests are given to students in a district once a year, based on their grade level and subject area. Classroom tests are given by individual teachers on a more regular basis and may include quizzes, mid-terms, chapter tests, and final exams, among others. Both types of tests give educators an idea of how well their students are learning the concepts presented to them in the classroom.
State testing information (data) by district or school is available from the Data Center. Links are available under Related MDE resources. Educators can use this testing information to adjust their instruction to increase how well their students retain what is being taught.
Additional resources, including item samplers and Pearson’s Perspective, are available on the PearsonAccess Next website. Item samplers are provided to help students and teachers become familiar with the format and type of content included in the state tests.
4th and 8th GRADE ACT PREP
Students in these grades take this nationally normed test so that the school can measure growth and college and career readiness.
All students will take quarterly interim tests in math and reading. The school’s focus towards these assessments in terms of data review, student success, teacher effectiveness, and curriculum needs is well supported in recent research and uses best practices as directed from our Authorizer and School Board. These assessments are for internal use. Children are not “graded” on these assessments. These are “show what you know” benchmarks. Tests are designed in house and are used to measure progress towards goals.
Advantages of Interim Tests (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2010):
- Road Map for instruction: When educators know precisely what skill level their students must reach on each standard, they will have a clear framework for creating a challenging and dynamic curriculum.
- Improvement in teaching: Well-designed interim assessments serve to identify weaknesses during the course of the school year. Meticulous attention to results and a constant feedback loop allow teachers to improve their craft, changing strategies in response to changing needs.
- Targeted Focus: By creating concrete benchmarks, interim assessments allow for classroom strengths and weaknesses to be clearly identified and systematically targeted.
- Accountability: The cumulative nature of interim assessments helps hold teachers and principals accountable for student learning results throughout the year. Rather than waiting for a year-end result, interim assessments make it possible to identify failed teaching strategies while there is still time to fix them.
- Visibility: Interim assessments allow for performance to be charted graphically so that school leaders and staff may see visual evidence of improvement.
- Checking for understanding without teacher support: Because of their formal written nature, interim assessments measure student understanding without what is often called “scaffolded” support (teacher hints and guidance in problem-solving), which can often reveal great differences between student output when supported by the teacher and when not!
- Preparing students for high-stakes assessment: The written format can also be used to simulate the high-stakes test by which states measure academic achievement.