North Dakota: Understanding Student Achievement Within State Assessment
Within education, a direct relationship exists among standards, instruction, and assessment. Standards drive instruction, instruction fosters learning, and assessment measures understanding.
Standards identify what students should know and be able to do. Teachers craft instruction to facilitate student learning. Teachers assess students to determine what level of learning has occurred. Assessment results inform teachers where further instruction is required. Assessment results report student achievement in terms of expected learning goals, which in turn guide future curriculum and instruction improvement.
The practice of assessing or testing students is well established within classrooms. Teachers routinely teach and assess their students in terms of instructional goals. Assessment results become the basis for grading, promotion, and ultimately graduation.
Similarly, assessments are well established for use by the state. The North Dakota State Assessment measures all students’ achievement with a common tool using a standardized scoring scale. The State Assessment ensures that all students are included into a common accountability system and that all students have access to a comparable educational opportunity.
I. Legal Foundations for the North Dakota State Assessment
A. State Assurances for Comparable Education
The North Dakota constitution mandates that the Legislative Assembly ensure that all North Dakota citizens are literate and afforded an opportunity to receive a high-quality education. The Legislative Assembly has empowered local school boards with the duty to provide such educational opportunities to their residents. The Legislative Assembly provides foundational funding that forms the base for local and other supplemental funding sources to accomplish this educational mandate. Although school districts determine local instructional goals and implement their respective programming, the State retains an inherent constitutional responsibility to ensure comparable and equitable educational opportunities statewide.
It has been the long-standing practice of the State to administer annual assessments at specific grade levels as a means of monitoring overall student achievement levels. These student achievement results have been used to assure a school’s improvement activities required under State accreditation rules, to evidence fundamental civil rights compliance, and to identify schools for program improvement under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The North Dakota State Assessment assesses all students in designated grades within a single, unified, statewide assessment that measures students’ performance in terms of the state’s challenging content and achievement standards. Such an assessment strategy offers a means to measure student achievement and to assure that all students receive a comparable educational opportunity.
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