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Glossary: Student Testing Terms

There are many common terms and jargon used when referencing student testing and assessments. Get caught up by reading this glossary.

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  1. Acceleration versus remediation: When assessments show that students have not absorbed all of the material needed to move on in their current grade-level work, teachers can choose to remediate or accelerate. Remediation involves reteaching of skills before moving onto grade-level work. Acceleration involves teaching grade-level work with breaks to weave in missing skills. It is used to avoid constant repetition and review for struggling learners without giving them the opportunity to learn grade-level work. The debate over acceleration versus remediation came to the forefront as post-pandemic assessments revealed learning gaps for many students.
  2. Achievement gap: Achievement gaps exist when a group, or student groups, outperforms other groups. The achievement gap generally refers to the persistent gap in academic achievement between students of color and their white counterparts or economically disadvantaged students and their well-off counterparts. It is measured through grades, standardized test scores, graduation rates and college completion rates. Educators and researchers are now embracing “opportunity gap” as an alternative term. In addition, more experts tend to also look at growth in scores.
  3. High-stakes test: Exams that are used to make important decisions. For students, they can determine promotion to the next grade or graduation. For schools and districts, it can include the results of annual standardized tests that can affect funding; positive or negative publicity; teacher evaluations, and raises or bonuses for school staff.
  4. Low-stakes test or formative assessments: Assessments used to measure a student’s knowledge without having any impact on whether they pass a particular class or are eligible to graduate. These include quizzes or evaluations where students can try multiple times and make mistakes before grasping a concept. Often, the terminology used is formative assessments.
  5. On-track measure: Are measures that determine if a student is making sufficient academic progress to meet academic goals. On-track measures can be set during a specific academic year to determine if students will achieve proficiency or beyond on annual assessments. On-track measures, such as third-grade reading proficiency, are also used to predict academic success in future grade levels.
  6. Prior knowledge: Refers to how much a student knows in a subject matter, determined by assessments, which are used to formulate student support and achievement plans. It’s important to know the extent of a student’s prior knowledge before moving on to new subject areas and skills.
  7. Proficiency: Students’ academic performance, based on assessment, demonstrates they have mastered the knowledge and skills they need to know at their grade levels. The targets are generally set by states.
  8. Scale scores:  Student scores based on a particular numeric scale. For example, the National Assessment of Education Progress reports exam results as average scores on a 0-500 point scale for grades four and eight and on a 0-300 point scale for high school.
  9. The Nation’s Report Card: Also refers to the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams administered every two years by the National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP provides national- and state-level proficiency data in math, reading, science and other subjects. Students in grades four, eight and 12 are currently assessed at the national and state levels in mathematics and reading every two years and in other subjects periodically.
  10. Trial Urban District Assessment: Also known as TUDA, it prioritizes urban K-12 education and academic achievement in urban districts. These scores on the math and reading NAEP tests are broken out for the districts who volunteer to participate. It began in 2002 with six urban districts participating. Twenty-six urban districts participated in 2022.